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Alarm grows over whistleblower claims that FBI scooped up Americans’ bank records without subpoena

Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, argued that obtaining these bank records without due process was unconstitutional.

Published: May 18, 2023 11:30pm

Legal experts are criticizing the FBI for allegedly obtaining the financial records of U.S. customers with Bank of America "without any legal process" following the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

They spoke Thursday hours after several FBI whistleblowers made the allegations in testimony before the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

The allegations about subpoena-less bank-records gathering were included in a staff report from the full, GOP-led House Judiciary Committee that was released about an hour ahead of Thursday's hearing. 

"Just like FBI whistleblowers ... retired FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst George Hill provided the Committee with detailed allegations of FBI civil liberties abuses," the report states. "Specifically, he testified that following the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Bank of America (BoA) gave the FBI’s Washington Field Office a list of individuals who had made transactions in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area with a BoA credit or debit card between January 5 and January 7, 2021.

"He also testified that individuals who had previously purchased a firearm with a BoA product were elevated to the top of the list provided by BoA."

The gathering of the transactions appears to have been a way for federal investigator to learn the identity of rioters.

Bank of America was not available for comment before this story was published. 

Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah from July 2006 to December 2009, argues that obtaining the bank records without due process was unconstitutional.

"It's illegal," he said. "It doesn't strike me as odd. And the reason it doesn't is I represented a couple of defendants, January 6 defendants, and I began to be very concerned."

He suggested the FBI used the data to learn that one of his clients was in Washington, D.C., at the time, though never charged.

"It would have been very difficult to determine that he was there in Washington D.C. without some illegal measure by the FBI," he said. "They don't believe it's illegal."

Alan Dershowitz, law professor emeritus at Harvard University, agreed that the whistleblowers' allegations are concerning. 

"There's a great danger to freedom," he said Thursday evening on the "Just the News Not Noise" TV program.

"Banks should not be turning records, private records over, the next thing doctors will be turning over private records and priests and rabbis. You just can't start violating people's privacy without a court order. It's so easy today to get a subpoena, a court order.”

He also said courts don't really look behind a government request – "but to go out without even a court order, and just willy nilly get records and the bank being complicit in that. I have to tell you, I'd take the money out right away and put it in a bank that promises me that it wouldn't turn over my records without a court order."

Former California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes said he isn't surprised by the allegations.

He argued that Biden administration hasn't learned anything since the Russia probe found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

"Not only have they not learned anything, they have put what they're doing on steroids," said Nunes, also a former House Intelligence committee chairman. "They're stepping on the gas. They're not stopping with the weaponization of the FBI and the Department of Justice and every other damn government agencies they can get their hands on."

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