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Tim Scott demands answers from Treasury over reported religious-based targeting of 'extremism'

Flagged search terms included "Trump" and "MAGA," while transactions that were flagged included those that indicated purchases of legal firearms and books, the senator said.

Published: January 21, 2024 10:31am

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is demanding answers from the Treasury Department after reports emerged that the agency is flagging customers who purchase certain books, including religious texts, for federal law enforcement to determine citizens who indicate signs of "extremism."

"These allegations, if true, represent a flagrant violation of Americans’ privacy and the improper targeting of U.S. citizens for exercising their constitutional rights without due process," Scott wrote in a letter Friday to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Director Andrea Gacki.

The letter comes after the House Judiciary Committee sounded the alarm that the Treasury Department had asked financial institutions to review U.S. citizens' transactions with keywords and search terms to help law enforcement in identifying people of interest.

Keywords included "Trump" and "MAGA," which could have appeared on Zelle payment messages, while transactions that were flagged included those that indicated purchases of legal firearms and books, including "religious texts," that could contain "extremist views," according to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

The report also found that shoppers who frequented sporting goods stores, such as Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, Cabela's, and Dick's Sporting Goods, were flagged as presenting an increased risk of being a violent extremist. 

Scott is asking the Treasury Department for more information about the purported practice. He is also asking the agency to confirm whether those who shopped at sporting goods stores were "presented as posing" a risk of being a violent extremist, and he wants to know which "religious texts were flagged as potentially indicative of extremism."

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