The Biden Administration is Watching You

by
posted on May 29, 2024
Joe Biden
Patrick Semansky/AP

It is not news that the Biden administration treats the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights as a roadblock to its ambitions, but even astute observers must be surprised at the brazenness of ploys like this. Last March, the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government pushed Biden administration officials into admitting they used a federal agency to collect information on Americans who shop at stores that sell guns.

In this congressional investigation, officials with the Biden administration’s U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) acknowledged that they purposely collected information on citizens who shopped at sporting-goods retailers, including Cabela’s.

The disclosure came via a letter to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen declined to answer questions from Congress about whether this surveillance had occurred. The letter appears to indicate that the federal government violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, a provision that protects citizens from warrantless search and seizure.

During the hearing, Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, “[B]ig government [is now] colluding with big banks and big business to spy on everything Americans buy, every place they go, everything they do. Big government wants your financial data because it’s full of sensitive information about you ... . And if you’re a gun owner, look out. You’re going to the top of the list. For simply exercising your Second Amendment right, you’re on the FBI’s target list. Never forget, the federal government got this information without any process. No warrant and, frankly, no notification.”

Rep. Jordan explained that “we’ve learned that the financial surveillance was broader [than previously thought] and there was actually a specific objective. The federal government is building profiles on the American people. And the profile isn’t based on criminal conduct. It’s based on political beliefs and if you’ve got the wrong political beliefs, well, you’re a potentially violent domestic extremist.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) was also outraged that Americans are being watched because they might be exercising their Second Amendment rights.

“In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the U.S. Department of Treasury told major banks to be on the lookout for customers using credit and debit cards for the purchase of legal firearms,” said Rep. Steube. “As a gun owner and a strong proponent of our Second Amendment rights, it’s appalling that a federal agency would ask private companies to spy on their customers conducting perfectly legal business transactions. It’s not like there’s a suspicion of criminality going on. These are just typical purchases of firearms.”

Rep. Steube also said, “President Obama once infamously remarked that many conservative Americans cling to guns or religion and, given FinCEN’s actions, it seems that President Biden’s administration shares the same hostility for millions of Americans like me who proudly cling to our First and Second amendment rights.”

In the same hearing, Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, testified that banks are using vague rules and excuses to “de-bank” those who hold political views that might not be politically favorable to the Biden administration. He noted that when Alliance Defending Freedom’s clients are de-banked, “it’s always under some vague policy. The only thing the bank will say is high risk or business type, or risk tolerance. Every time they go back and ask for an answer, a specific reason, the bank just stonewalls them, and so they can’t get access to information.”

Before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government met in March to publicly investigate this alleged Fourth Amendment infringement of gun owners’ privacy, the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee held a hearing on this topic last February. In that hearing, the Committee interviewed the Treasury’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, and Director of the FinCEN, Andrea Gacki. The hearing was titled “Oversight of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI).”

During that hearing, several members of Congress pushed for answers regarding admissions by the Treasury Department that they did, in fact, spy on citizens’ private financial transactions at stores licensed to sell guns. During the hearing, these officials admitted they solicited purchase records and internet search histories from corporate banks. Bank of America, for example, was served a subpoena by the Treasury Department.

In the March hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) brought up the creation of a Merchant Category Code (MCC) designed to specifically differentiate firearm retailers so that possible purchases of guns and ammo could be tracked.

“In 2022, gun-ban activist Amalgamated Bank and far-Left politicians pushed for the creation of an unconstitutional Merchant Category Code to be assigned to firearms retailers to identify ‘suspect purchases’ and report purchasing patterns to law enforcement, a clear unconstitutional infringement on Second Amendment rights and a clear backdoor to a gun registry; in fact, failed New York Attorney General Tish [Letitia] James specifically mentioned the importance of labeling gun-and-ammunition sales as a way to indicate an imminent crime,” said Rep. Stefanik. “Since then, some states have banned the code, while states like California have mandated it to surveil Americans’ purchases. This is why I introduced the Protecting Privacy and Purchases Act with Congressman [Andy] Barr [R-Ky.] … to put a stop to this code and protect law-abiding Americans from this infringing unconstitutional overreach.”

So, then, as the use of a Merchant Category Code designed to watch sales at federal firearms licensees has largely been stopped by Second Amendment advocates, did the Biden administration seek a workaround to watch these sales? Did they decide to use FinCEN to monitor possible firearms sales, so they could potentially create lists of who might own a gun?

It is clear that more investigation is needed.

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