An appeal was recently heard in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice involving FBI coordination with banks against people who took part in the pro-Trump rally on January 6, 2021.
The lawsuit seeks records of communication between the FBI and several financial institutions about financial transactions made by people in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia on January 5 and January 6, 2021.
The FBI request for information was so broad, according to Judicial Watch, that all financial transactions of people in Washington DC were turned over to the law enforcement agency-- even people who had nothing to do with the rally.
The hearing was held as a result of an appeal by the watchdog Judicial Watch, filed in November 2022. The appeal challenges the court decision allowing the FBI to withhold the records.
The appeal was heard by a three-judge panel: Circuit Judge Wilkins, and Senior Circuit Judges Rogers and Tatel.
An audio of the hearing can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/live/Hfa6qg4SEyA
Read background information provided by Judicial Watch below.
Judicial Watch asked for the following information:
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.
In its appellate brief, Judicial Watch argued:
This appeal arises from what appears to be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of thousands of Americans. Substantial and compelling evidence demonstrates that the FBI sought and received records from financial institutions of anyone who used a credit card or engaged in other transactions in the Washington, D.C. area on January 5 or 6, 2021. This would include many thousands of persons living in the Washington, DC area, including possibly members of this Court.
In its appeal, Judicial Watch pointed out that the lower court was mistaken when it upheld the FBI’s Glomar response (neither confirming nor denying the existence of records) because the FBI previously acknowledged the existence of the records in multiple ways. For instance, court records filed in support of a criminal case include the FBI’s statement of facts that provides the defendant’s address, which was obtained through “his Bank of America account and recent Expedia transactions.”
In another case, the FBI “confirmed that it obtained records from PNC Bank and discusses in detail the multiple ways that it used the financial data.”
Additionally, “financial records obtained from JP Morgan Chase bank corroborate [the defendant] used a credit card issued in his name to purchase gas and food en route to Washington, DC …”
Judicial Watch cited two additional cases where the FBI describes in publicly available court records its use of financial records in the January 6 investigation.
Judicial Watch concluded:
[Judicial Watch] more than adequately demonstrated that the FBI may have sought and received records from financial institutions of anyone who used a credit card or engaged in other transactions in the Washington, DC area on January 5 or 6. If so, this would be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of thousands of Americans. [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request to investigate this should not be blocked by a meritless Glomar response.
Read more at this link: Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice