Originally published May 26, 2023 2:00 pm PDT
In a move that sends shockwaves through the privacy rights and banking communities, two high-ranking Congressional lawmakers have launched an investigation into Bank of America’s alleged voluntary sharing of private customer financial data with the FBI.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust Thomas Massie (R-KY) issued a formal request to Bank of America (BoA) CEO Brian Moynihan, demanding “information and communications between BoA, the FBI, and the Department of Justice related to the events of January 6, 2021.”
The lawmakers are reacting to whistleblower testimony highlighted in a report by the House Judiciary Committee and Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
The report states that BoA provided the FBI—voluntarily and without any legal process—a list of individuals who had made transactions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area with a BoA credit or debit card between January 5 and January 7, 2021.
Further, individuals who had previously purchased a firearm with a BoA product were allegedly elevated to the top of the list regardless of when or where the purchase was made.
In the joint letter, Jordan and Massie stressed that the “Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government are conducting oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its receipt of information about American citizens from private entities.”
They emphasized that the committees “require your cooperation in investigating these facts.”
One of the most damning pieces of information disclosed in the letter is the testimony from retired FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst George Hill.
He testified that BoA had, without any directive from the FBI, data-mined its customer base for a specific date range in early 2021, and provided a list to the FBI, with those who had purchased a firearm at any date placed at the top.
Jordan and Massie expressed alarm at this testimony, writing that “This information appears to have had no individualized nexus to particularized criminal conduct, but was rather a data dump of BoA customers’ transactions over a three-day period.”
They express concern that this could potentially include customers who were unrelated to the events of January 6.
They also expressed concern about the implications for customers who had merely exercised their Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm.
The Chairmen outlined a series of document and information requests from BoA in their investigation.
These requests included all documents and communications relating to the provision of financial records to the FBI from January 1, 2021, as well as documents concerning any internal database of firearms purchases by BoA customers.
The lawmakers stated in no uncertain terms that “Congress has an important interest in ensuring that Americans’ private information is protected from collection by federal law enforcement agencies without proper due process.”
The outcome of this investigation will surely have significant implications for privacy rights, as well as the operations of banks and federal law enforcement agencies in the United States.
Read the full letter below: