Feds Spied on Citizens, Likened Pro-Gun Positions with Violent Extremism

A new House subcommittee report provides justification for using cash to purchase firearms and/or ammunition. (Dave Workman)

A special House Judiciary subcommittee has issued an alarming report that alleges federal law enforcement “commandeered financial institutions to spy on Americans” and used Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) “to search through transactions to detect potential criminals or ‘extremists.’”

According to the 56-page report’s Executive Summary, “These MCCs use keywords to comb through transactions, such as ‘small arms’ purchases or recreational stores such as ‘Cabela’s,’ ‘Bass Pro Shop,’ and ‘Dick’s Sporting Goods.’ Americans doing nothing other than shopping or exercising their Second Amendment rights were being tracked by financial institutions and federal law enforcement.”

This was all done in the aftermath of the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the report said.

The report is dated March 6 and was issued by the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

Writing at the National Review, reporter James Lynch notes how the report says the FBI search “appears to have resulted in Bank of America sending the bureau a database of thousands of customers, with their financial information.” According to the House report, Bank of America (BoA) “declined to produce” documents requested by the Subcommittee for its investigation.

On Page 21 of the subcommittee report, readers find this: “While BoA has refused to provide the Committee and Select Subcommittee with its ‘filing on the parameters’ it discussed and shared with the FBI, it is clear that the FBI was not interested in particularized criminal activity. Rather, the FBI cast a wide net with its search parameters and used BoA’s database to identify responsive accounts, creating a sprawling file of individuals whose financial accounts were flagged for federal law enforcement without any particularized allegation of engaging in federal criminal conduct. It is highly disturbing for any huge financial institution to comply with such a sweeping request from federal law enforcement and hand over its customers’ information without any legal process or regard for the privacy of its customers’ information.”

As Lynch writes in his National Review article, federal law enforcement agencies “lumped together conservative positions on guns and immigration with violent extremism in guidance given to financial institutions to help them monitor people’s transactions, a congressional investigation found.”

The timing for the Biden administration could not be worse because the report was issued on the eve of President Joe Biden’s “State of the Union” address.

Biden, running for re-election in November, continues to push for a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” and as the Second Amendment Foundation has repeatedly revealed through a string of advertising messages, he also wants to ban the sale of 9mm pistols.

Gun owners, whether they are recreational shooters, hunters, competitors or a combination of those pursuits, purchase firearms under the protection of the Second Amendment and right-to-bear-arms provisions in most state constitutions. But on Page 6 of the subcommittee report is a paragraph which could give these citizens reason to alter their buying habits, or at least how they pay their bills.

“The emergence of credit cards, mobile banking, and other digital marketplaces have resulted in an unprecedented amount of private data entrusted to financial institutions, potentially revealing all sorts of sensitive information about a customer,” the report states. “For that reason, financial records have become an important investigative tool for federal law enforcement. Still, federal law enforcement’s interest in financial records must be weighed against the privacy interests of Americans. Without greater oversight and the necessary legislative reforms reflecting the advances in modern-day banking practices, Americans’ private financial data is still vulnerable to the shortcomings of an outdated legal framework and pervasive government surveillance.”

So much for the argument from many gun rights activists that it is none of the government’s business what they own. However, this does reinforce the notion that gun and ammunition purchases should be cash only, as many gun owners suggest.

As noted on Page 36 of the report—the final page before the Appendix—“As this investigation continues, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government will continue to conduct oversight of the state of financial surveillance, targeting, and the vulnerabilities of Americans’ data. Secret information-sharing portals and backchannel discussions outside the normal course of legal process pose serious risks to the nation. Larger questions remain regarding how the information shared between federal law enforcement and financial institutions was acted upon, and the ongoing extent of the financial surveillance. The Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government remain committed to answering those questions and upholding the civil liberties of Americans.”

About Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

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