During the opening of Thursday’s broadcast of Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” host Tucker Carlson revealed in his monologue that Bank of America offered its customers’ private financial information to law enforcement as a way to aid the investigation into the January 6 U.S. Capitol incident.
Bank of America responded to Fox News Channel’s request for comment by not directly acknowledging such conduct but added that actions were in compliance with the law.
Transcript as follows:
CARLSON: There’s been an enormous amount of talk in the last month about violent extremism and the dangerous people who’ve embraced it. These people are domestic terrorists, we’re told. They must be put down by force. The war on terror has moved stateside. Extremists have breached our walls. They are inside our country. And in response, we must hunt them down. It’s existential. Our country depends on it. Our lives depend it.
We’re hearing these words nonstop on cable news. But not just there. We’re also hearing the same thing from elected officials, including some Republican elected officialss. We’re hearing it from the leaders of federal enforcement and of the intelligence agencies. We’re hearing it from the Pentagon.
Just this week, the new defense secretary ordered the entire U.S. military to quote, “stand down,” while investigators cleansed the ranks of political extremists. And we’re hearing it from the business establishment, from Wall Street and the tech monopolies, and from the massive multinational corporations that increasingly control the contours of American life. All of them are now on the hunt for political extremists.
At one level, that doesn’t sound so bad. No sane person is for extremism, especially violent extremism. We’re against it. We’re for moderation. We’re for incremental change, and the consent of the governed. We’ve said that every day for four years and we meant it. We don’t like extremists either. But being against something isn’t enough. You have to be more precise than that.
What is it you’re against? In order to root out a problem, you have to know what it is. You need a sense of what you’re looking for. You need a clear sight picture. You have to define the terms. here’s the remarkable thing. No one is doing that. Have you noticed? None of these newly energized and highly empowered extremist-hunters had told us what exactly what an extremist is. We’re left to guess, looking around nervously to see if we can spot one, and hoping against hope the whole time they’re not talking about us.
Are they? And if so, what exactly are they going to do about it? How are they hunting these extremists they keep telling us about, but will not describe?
We now know part of the answer. This show has exclusively obtained evidence that Bank of America — the second largest bank in the country, with more than 60 million customers — is actively but secretly engaged in the hunt for extremist in cooperation with the government. Bank of America is, without the knowledge or the consent of its customers, sharing private information with federal law enforcement agencies. Banks of America is effectively acting as an intelligence agency. But they’re not telling you about it.
In the days after the January 6 riot at the Capitol, Bank of America rooted through its own customers’ financial and transaction records — a lot of them. These were the private records of Americans who had committed no crime — people who as far as we know had absolutely nothing to do with what happened at the Capitol on January 6. At the request of federal investigators, Bank of America searched its databases looking for people who fit this profile.
Here’s what that profile was, and we are quoting:
“1) Customers confirmed as transacting, either through bank account debit card or credit card, purchases in Washington, D.C. between January 5 and January 6.
2. Purchases made for Hotels, AirBnB, RSVPs in Washington, Virginia or Maryland after January 6.
3) Any purchase of weapons or at a weapons-related merchant between January 7 and their upcoming suspected stay in D.C. area around Inauguration Day.
4. Airline related purchases since January 6,” end quote.
The first thing to notice about this profile is that it’s remarkably broad — any purchases of anything in the city of Washington, D.C. Any overnight stay anywhere in a three-state area, spanning hundreds of miles. Any purchase, not simply of legal firearms, but instead anything bought from a quote, “weapons-related merchant,” T-shirts included. And then, any “airline related purchases.” To anywhere. To Omaha, or Thailand.
That’s a very, very wide net — an absurdly wide one. Bank of America identified a total of 211 customers who met these quote, “thresholds of interest.”
And it was at that point, we’ve learned, Bank of America handed over the results of its internal scan to federal authorities, apparently without notifying the customers who were being spied upon. Federal investigators then interviewed at least one of these unsuspecting people. And that person, we’ve learned, hadn’t done anything wrong, and ultimately was cleared.
Imagine if you were that person. The FBI hauls you in for questioning in a terror investigation, not because you’ve done anything suspicious. You haven’t. You brought plane tickers and visited your country’s capital. You thought you could do that. You thought it was your country.
Now they’re sweating you because your bank, which you trust with your most private information, information with everything you buy, has ratted you out to the Feds without telling you, without your knowledge. Because of Bank of America did that, you’re being treated like a member of al Qaeda.
What country is this? It doesn’t matter how much you hate Donald Trump — or how much you believe that hatred justifies suspending this country’s ancient civil liberties — going through that experience would scare the hell out of you. A terror suspect, you would think? Does anyone know about this? Is there a record? Will I lose my job because of it?
That actually happened. It’s hard to believe but it did. We asked Bank of America about it. They confirmed it actually happened by not denying it. Here’s their statement in full, which manages to make the whole thing even creepier, assuming that’s possible. Quote: “We don’t comment on our communications with law enforcement.” Well, apparently not. “All banks,” it continues, “have responsibilities under federal law to cooperate with law enforcement inquiries in full compliance with the law,” end quote.
Now the last part, from a lawyer’s perspective, is the essence.
“In full compliance with the law.” It’s the law. We had no choice. But that’s not that’s not true. Bank of America did have a choice. The bank could have resisted turning over information on innocent customers to the federal investigators. It didn’t. Nor is it clear that what Bank of America did is even legal. It’s turns out, it’s not simple. It’s a grey area. We spoke to a number of lawyers about this today. Some of them told us that what Bank of America might, in fact, not be legal and could be challenged in court.
One knowledgeable attorney pointed us to 12 USC 3403. That’s a federal law that allows banks to tip off the feds to any information that, quote, “may be relevant to a possible violation of any statute or regulation.”
Now, the DOJ instructs federal agents to remind banks of that law, and, of course, they do with maximum aggression. But the question is, legally, what constitutes information that “may be relevant” to a “possible” crime? Buying a muffin in Washington, D.C. on January 5th? Does that make you a potential “domestic extremist?” According to Bank of America, yes — yes it does.
This is the moment when, for the sake of our country, we need need to pause and breath deeply, avoiding hysteria, and ask, what are the rules? What’s, for God’s sake is a political extremist? A lot hangs on that question, maybe everything. Please tell us. Pointedly they won’t tell us.
Today at the White House, the new national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters that “domestic extremism” is the urgent crisis of our time. Rooting out political domestic extremism is more important than anything else — more important you getting a job, or being able to open your small business. But he did not, tellingly, explain what it was:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: So Build Back Better isn’t just about economics. It’s about national security as well. And then it’s about the set of issues that working families in this country are facing every day. That are challenging their lives and livelihoods. The pandemic, climate change, the threat of domestic violent extremism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Domestic violent extremism. There it is. The worst thing. But no sense of what that means. We’re getting the sense, they’re not defining it for a reason. What’s another explanation?
Yesterday, an op-ed in The New York Times asked this question: “Are Private Messaging Apps the Next Misinformation Hot Spot?” Signal, a bunch of others. They’re encrypted. No one can read it. The New York Times doesn’t like this. Why? Because, if we can’t see what you’re saying, shouldn’t you be allowed to say it? As the newspaper put it, quote, “The shift to private messaging has renewed a debate over whether encryption is a double-edged sword. While the technology prevents people from being spied on, it might also make it easier for criminals and misinformation spreaders to do harm without getting caught.”
Notice, “criminals” and “misinformation spreaders” are in the same sentence. They’re pretty much the same thing. What’s a misinformation spreader? Obviously, it is somebody who doesn’t agree with The New York Times. Obviously violent extremists and they’re dangerous. If you think we’re joking, we’re not. They’re pulling this thread every day. According to the Democratic Party, we need to start screening the social media accounts of people who work for the federal government just to make sure.
Editor’s Note (10:12 p.m. ET, 2/4/21): Story was updated to clarify Bank of America did not acknowledge revealing customer private information and to include the following statement from Bank of America:
“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.”
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