Judicial Watch announced it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice for records of communication between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and several financial institutions about the reported transfer of financial transactions made by people in DC, Maryland and Virginia on January 5 and January 6, 2021 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:21-cv-01216)). Last week, the FBI refused to confirm or deny any such records exist.
The lawsuit was filed after the FBI failed to respond to a February 10, 2021, FOIA request seeking:
All records of communication between the FBI and any financial institution, including but not limited to Bank of America, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Discover, and/or American Express, in which the FBI sought transaction data for those financial institutions’ debit and credit card account holders who made purchases in Washington, DC, Maryland and/or Virginia on January 5, 2021 and/or January 6, 2021.
Bank of America reportedly “actively but secretly engaged in the hunt for extremists in cooperation with the government” and, following the events of January 6, gave the FBI financial records of their customers who fit the following profile:
1. Customers confirmed as transacting, either through bank account debit card or credit card purchases in Washington, D.C. between 1/5 and 1/6.
2. Purchases made for Hotel/Airbnb RSVPs in DC, VA, and MD after 1/6.
3. 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.
4. Airline related purchases since 1/6.
On June 8, 2021, the court overseeing the lawsuit ordered the FBI/DOJ to respond substantively to Judicial Watch’s request within 30 days.
On June 17, 2021, the FBI responded to Judicial Watch’s request, stating that the request was “too broad” and asked for “further clarification and/or narrowing” of the request.
On June 24, 2021, Judicial Watch responded to this request by sending a news article detailing Bank of America’s handing over transaction records to the FBI of people in the Washington, DC area around the date of January 6.
On July 1, 2021, the FBI responded to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request with a letter stating that it accepts Judicial Watch’s narrowing of the search, but that it neither confirms nor denies the existence of these documents. The FBI states:
The FBI accepts this supplemental correspondence as evidence you are further clarifying and narrowing the subject of your request to records/financial transaction requests from financial institutions pertaining to the alleged riot on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, to include records/financial transactions from January 5, 2021 for the 3 jurisdictions.
Please be advised that it is the FBI’s policy to neither confirm nor deny the existence of any records which would disclose the existence or non-existence of non-public law enforcement techniques, procedures, and/or guidelines. The acknowledgment that any such records exist or do not exist could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of law.
“We want the details on what looks to be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of countless innocent Americans by big banks and the FBI,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The FBI’s stonewalling and non-denial denial of our request speak volumes.”