Congress probing whether IRS using AI to invade Americans’ financial privacy

As new inquiry opened, Rep. Hageman says too many Feds “do not recognize our constitutional protections.”

Published: March 23, 2024 10:51pm

Updated: March 23, 2024 11:01pm

The House Judiciary Committee has opened an inquiry to whether the IRS is using artificial intelligence to invade Americans’ financial privacy after an agency employee was captured in an undercover tape suggesting there was a widespread surveillance operation underway that might not be constitutional.

Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., sent a letter last week to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen demanding documents, and answers as to how the agency is currently employing artificial intelligence to comb through bank records to look for possible tax cheats. 

The inquiry comes after the same panel has been exploring why the FBI was obtaining Americans’ bank records, including those of Jan. 6 suspects, without using search warrants or subpoenas.

Hageman told Just the News that lawmakers are increasingly concerned that federal law-enforcement agencies are no longer abiding by constitutional protections, including prohibitions against search and seizure without a warrant. 

“So one of the things that I have learned since I've been in Congress is that there are quite a few people in government who do not recognize our constitutional protections,” Hageman said.  “They've kind of forgotten or at least ignored our Bill of Rights.”

The congressional inquiry was prompted by a September 2023 announcement that the IRS is using AI to “help IRS compliance teams better detect tax cheating, identify emerging compliance threats and improve case selection tools.”

The Treasury Department has since acknowledged it has “implemented an enhanced process using AI to mitigate check fraud in near real-time by strengthening and expediting processes to recover potentially fraudulent payments from financial institutions' since late 2022.”

Jordan’s and Hageman’s letter said lawmakers have evidence and reason to believe that the IRS and Department of Justice (DOJ) are actively monitoring millions of Americans' private transactions, bank accounts, and related financial information—without any legal process—using the AI-powered system.

“This kind of pervasive financial surveillance, carried out in coordination with federal law enforcement, into Americans' private financial records raises serious doubts about the IRS's—and the federal government's—respect for Americans' fundamental civil liberties,” the letter said.

You can read the letter here:

The letter also requests that Alex Mena, an IRS official working in the agency's Criminal Investigations Unit who was captured in an undercover videotape stating that the IRS has "a new system" that uses AI to target Americans, appear before the Committee for a transcribed interview.

“Mena asserted that the new AI system has the ability to access and monitor 'all the information from all the companies in the world,’” the letter said. “In the video, Mena suggested that the AI-powered system can 'see the amount' in every American's bank account, adding that this 'invasive' system is 'working really well' 'nationwide.'

”Mena also noted that IRS agents 'have no problem, like, going after the small people, you know, putting people in prison. Like destroying people's lives, they have no problem doing that.' When asked whether the system is constitutional, Mena replied, 'I doubt it,’” the letter added.

Hageman and Jordan asked Yellen to provide “documents and communications referring or relating to the use of artificial intelligence, including machine learning and large language models, to track, monitor, surveil, investigate, audit, or otherwise view the financial information of American citizens.”

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