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The Biden administration acknowledged a controversial surveillance push that utilized politically charged terms like “MAGA,” and “Trump,” to scrutinize private banking transactions. This marks the first time that the administration has publicly recognized the inclusion of these specific keywords in the January 6-linked surveillance.
This surveillance approach has sparked criticism from Senator Tim Scott, a leading Republican member of the Senate Banking Committee, who called it a “flagrant violation of Americans’ privacy” in a missive to the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen.
The Senator argued that the process targeted US citizens for simply exercising their constitutionally sanctioned rights without due process.
Despite the outcry, this surveillance tactic was initiated under the previous Trump administration shortly after January 6, 2021.
Elaborating on this, a letter from the Treasury Department to Senator Scott mentioned “exchange events” organized by its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
Remarkably, search terms like “MAGA” and “Trump” were reportedly created by a financial institution for internal use and shared with FinCEN to flag potentially dubious activities. However, terms like “Kamala” and “Biden” were too.
While the name of the origin bank remains undisclosed, sources confirm that FinCEN passed those terms to other banks to support similar searches.
“While we are still looking into the details of these events, [January 6] we understand that these FinCEN Exchange events included government and private sector representatives who voluntarily participated in discussions and information exchanges focused on identifying the perpetrators of this attack and providing support to ongoing law enforcement investigations,” the letter reads.
“…to the extent key words 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.”
Read the full letter here.
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Author: Ken Macon
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