Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and FinCEN Director Andrea Gacki, requesting answers to questions relating to the Treasury’s role in flagging customers who purchased religious texts and political terminology such as “MAGA” and “Trump.”
“I write regarding recent reporting that the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury) through its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) 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,” Scott wrote. “These 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.”
“Unfortunately, the weaponization and misuse of [merchant category codes] is not a new issue either,” he added. “Recently, the public and members of Congress raised concerns about the potential to surveil the free exercise of lawful activity using an MCC code—the same concern is at issue here.”
“Which religious texts were flagged as potentially indicative of extremism?” the senator asked.
Scott emphasized, “Who made the decision for Treasury/FinCEN to warn financial institutions that religious texts may indicate extremism?”
American Faith reported that the flagged purchases were revealed by the House Judicial Committee.
“This kind of pervasive financial surveillance, carried out in coordination with and at the request of federal law enforcement, into Americans’ private transactions is alarming and raises serious concerns about the FBI’s respect for fundamental civil liberties,” a press release read.
“[T]he Committee and Select Subcommittee have obtained documents showing that FinCEN distributed slides, prepared by a financial institution, explaining how other financial institutions can use MCC codes to detect customers whose transactions may reflect ‘potential active shooters, [and] who may include dangerous International Terrorists / Domestic Terrorists / Homegrown Violent Extremists (‘Lone Wolves’),’” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote in letter to former Director of the Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations Division of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Noah Bishoff.
“Despite these transactions having no apparent criminal nexus—and, in fact, relate to Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights— FinCEN seems to have adopted a characterization of these Americans as potential threat actors,” Jordan added, referring to transactions from sporting and recreational stores.