FBI whistleblower raises fresh concerns about bank record mining, undercover agents in J6 probe

Veteran FBI intelligence analyst's testimony raises civil liberty concerns about acquisition of bank records, possible undercovers at U.S. Capitol.

Published: February 8, 2023 6:36pm

Updated: February 8, 2023 11:50pm

A recently retired FBI supervisory intelligence analyst told Congress in a whistleblower disclosure that agents in Boston were improperly pressured by Washington to open criminal cases on 140 people who had simply taken a bus ride to the Jan. 6 rally in Washington. The agents refused because there was no evidence the attendees engaged in any criminality, the whistleblower said.

George Hill's testimony to the House Judiciary Committee also raised new civil liberty concerns about the FBI's Jan. 6 probe, including whether the Bureau mined Americans' bank records without court authority and whether the agency possesses video footage it is refusing to release because it identifies undercover agents and human sources who were at the U.S. Capitol that fateful day.

Hill, a military veteran and longtime analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI who retired last year from the Bureau's Boston field office, told Just the News on Wednesday night that he disclosed concerns earlier this week to the House Judiciary Committee during a transcribed deposition, including that the Bureau analyzed banking data without evidence of a crime -- simply to find Americans who traveled to Washington around the time of Jan. 6 or who owned a gun.

Hill said supervisors in the Washington field office pressured to open cases, first on seven individuals who came up in a sweep of bank records provided by Bank of America, and then on the larger group of 140 Americans who paid to take bus rides to President Donald Trump's now infamous rally on Jan. 6, 2021, the day a mob overran police lines and flooded into the Capitol as Congress met to certify the 2020 election results. He credited his supervisors in Boston for resisting the pressure.

"There's no evidence of a crime being committed here," he said during a wide-ranging interview on the "Just the News, No Noise" television show. "We cannot open up preliminary investigations on someone for using a financial instrument in the District. And so they pushed back, and Boston did not take any action on those names."

Hill also said the Washington field office, which led the Jan. 6 probe, did not react well to the refusal, escalating up the chain of command, but at each step of the process the Boston office held its ground. "Getting on a bus and participating in a political rally is not predication for a crime or a preliminary investigation," he said, explaining why Boston resisted.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Just the News on Wednesday night that Hill's information provided an essential roadmap for his select subcommittee's investigation into potential weaponization of law enforcement agencies like the FBI.

"I appreciate this brave whistleblower coming forward," Jordan said in an interview. "He’s worked in the military and then as an FBI agent. And he gave us a lot of valuable information that will be the foundation for our weaponization investigation going forward."

Hill's account backs up other FBI whistleblowers, like Special Agent Steve Friend, who've alleged the FBI's Washington field office exerted undue pressure and exhibited political bias in an effort to get field offices around the country to open up as many domestic terrorism cases on Jan. 6 attendees as possible, to pad numbers or to make Trump supporters who came to Washington feel pain and shame. "The process was the punishment," Friend told Just the News.

Friend has been sidelined from his job because his security clearance was suspended, after he raised his whistleblower concerns. Hill retired from the Bureau last year.

Hill and Friend both are being advised by former Senate investigator Jason Foster, the head of Empower Oversight, a whistleblower support nonprofit. Foster, who worked for years under Sen. Chuck Grassley, said the whistleblowers have provided Congress with a portrait of the FBI that, "keeps feeding public suspicion that it's too focused on political narratives and not focused enough on fighting crime."

"After 9/11, everybody was upset that we didn't connect the dots," Foster said. "We didn't find a needle in the haystack, and what's happened since is we turned the FBI into a domestic surveillance organization, and now we collect tens of thousands of haystacks and now it's even harder to find the needles.

"And this is a perfect example of that, where you have tons of people [who] just want to push numbers, and they want to get tons of cases open so that they can say they're addressing domestic violent extremism and they can say that there's a big problem with it." 

"[T]his is another example of the evidence that we're seeing, that a lot of that just appears to be hype, and it was predicated on just the thinnest" of evidence... The fact that someone is in DC and goes to a rally, as George said, is just not reason [enough] to open up a criminal investigation."

The FBI national press office and Bank of America's (BOA's) media department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. 

There have been concerns in legal circles for more than a year about the FBI obtaining bank data from institutions that volunteered it without a subpoena.

Judicial Watch is currently pursuing litigation to force the Bureau to release documents on how it got bank records during the Jan. 6 probe, but so far, the FBI has declined to provide any data.

Hill said he was told the banks provided the FBI with the records they mined. "Nobody asked for it," he claimed. "It was totally voluntary."

Hill also told the committee about concerns he developed when the Washington field office refused to let its colleagues in Boston review surveillance video from the Capitol to see if any of the 140 attendees had committed crimes. The answer he got back raised concerns about whether the FBI had undercovers -- or informants -- at the site, he said.

"When you ask for footage," he recalled, "what they'll come back with is 'Tell us the exact place and time where you think the subject of your investigation was?' To which the standard reply is, 'Well, we don't know because we can't see the footage.' And the comeback then is 'There may be identities within that footage that we need to protect.'

"So one can make inferences regarding that, who those identities were they were looking to protect, but that probably wasn't their grandparents or their aunts and uncles."

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