By Larry Keane
Bank of America, it turns out, is selling out their customers who bought guns or ammunition to federal authorities as people who should be investigated for ties to the criminal acts witnessed on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.
Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, uncovered evidence that Bank of America is turning over the private transaction records of its customers to federal investigators it believes need to be probed for “extremism” or even domestic terrorism. The chilling move by the second-largest corporate bank in America with more than 60 million customers and $2.16 trillion in assets was this:
- Customers confirmed as transacting, either through bank account debit card or credit card purchases in Washington, D.C. between 1/5 and 1/6.
- Purchases made for Hotel/Airbnb RSVPs in DC, VA, and MD after 1/6.
- Any purchase of weapons or at a weapons-related merchant between 1/7 and their upcoming suspected stay in D.C. area around Inauguration Day.
- Airline related purchases since 1/6.
Did you notice No. 3? Bank of America is vocally antigun, but this is crossing into secret lists, big brother, sci-fi truth-is-stranger-than-fiction territory. The bank’s criteria included any purchase at gun store, but not just guns. If someone bought a t-shirt, baseball hat or even a trigger lock, that flagged their account for “review.”
Who Told Who?
Carlson reported that Bank of America identified 211 people and turned that information over to investigators without notifying those customers their private financial transaction data was being shared without their consent. Federal authorities interviewed at least one person, and that individual was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Bank of America dodged Carlson when confronted with the allegations it was singling out customers who made a purchase at a gun store. They said, “We don’t comment on our communications with law enforcement. All banks have responsibilities under federal law to cooperate with law enforcement inquiries in full compliance with the law.”
However, “compliance with the law” here is questionable at best. Bank of America didn’t say that the FBI subpoenaed the information. They only said they “cooperated.” Carlson pointed out that banks are allowed under 12 U.S.C. 3403 to provide information that “may be relevant to a possible violation of any statute or regulation.”
In Bank of America’s estimation, visiting a gun store and buying any product, much less a firearm which is protected by the Second Amendment, is suspicious enough to put their customers on a secret watch list without their knowledge.
The New York Post interviewed New York City’s former top cop who blasted the decision to hand over private financial data.
“That’s just not a good reason to hand over private information. If that’s the way they do business now, then the people of this country really have something to worry about,” said Bernard Kerik, a security consultant who headed the NYPD in 2000 and 2001.
Another former law enforcement official called the move “a fishing expedition.”
In a follow-up, Fox News’ Mark Steyn interviewed former federal prosecutor Francey Hakes, who noted Bank of America’s response was peculiarly-absent of any mention of “search warrants, court orders or subpoenas…” Hakes noted that the Fourth Amendment protects against searched that aren’t “particularized” or when a judge signs off an order to search the records of a specific individual based on evidence.
“Financial information is highly private in this country and is given heightened protections,” she added.
So far, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo haven’t responded if they’ve conducted similar internal search efforts of customer information. Yet, this follows an antigun animus by Bank of America. In 2018, Bank of America announced they would end financial relationships with manufacturers of modern sporting rifles, which they erroneously called “military-style rifle.” The move followed a similar announcement by Citigroup.
Delving into private transactions and using big banks to approve of purchases isn’t a new idea. In fact, this is the fulfillment of New York Times’ columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin’s call for such action and who proposed the notion in 2017 and 2018. It was later parroted by Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke as a potential gun control program.
It also shouldn’t be surprising that big banks with antigun agendas are emboldened to violate their customers’ privacy, turn them out and label them as “extremist” and “domestic terrorist.” The Biden administration yanked the publication of the “Fair Access” banking rule by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. That gave banks the greenlight to continue to openly discriminate against firearm business, which is just a privatization with a wink-and-nod to continue the illegal Operation Choke Point that was begun under the Obama administration.
It is no longer the Bank of America. It is a gun control cabal working to undermine American freedoms, label gun owners as criminals and use their customers’ money and information as the tools to get it done. Welcome to the Bank of Gun Control America.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.