Yellen avoids answering whether Treasury ordered surveillance of consumer purchases

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen danced around giving a direct response about the surveillance of consumers’ purchases while she pledged a “thorough look” would be conducted into the claims.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Yellen was asked about claims in a House Judiciary Committee letter that federal investigators asked financial institutions to search customer transactions by filtering terms like “MAGA” and “Trump.”

“Has Treasury — including FinCEN or federal banking agencies like the Fed, FDIC, OCC — instructed financial institutions to search Americans’ legal transactions in attempts to surveil their purchases?” Rep. Ann Wagner asked Yellen.

“Well, we received the letter from you, I believe, on this topic, and we intend to investigate and to respond,” the secretary replied, not denying the claims directly.

“Have you instructed banks and financial institutions to provide this information?”  the Missouri Republican pressed.

“Well, FinCEN, our job is to work with financial institutions to make sure —” Yellen began before Wagner cut in.

“Are they instructing financial institutions to search Americans’ legal transactions in attempts to surveil their purchases?” Wagner asked, repeating the question.

“I promise a thorough look into everything,” Yellen declared.

“This is really concerning, and I would hope you get to it just as quickly as possible, Madam Secretary,” Wagner urged.

Last month, the Judiciary Committee alleged the “pervasive financial surveillance” and revealed details in a press release.

“New documents obtained by the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government reveal that the federal government flagged terms like ‘MAGA’ and ‘TRUMP’ for financial institutions if Americans used those phrases when completing transactions,” the press release noted.

“Individuals who shopped at stores like Cabela’s or Dick’s Sporting Goods, or purchased religious texts like a bible, may also have had their transactions flagged. This kind of pervasive financial surveillance, carried out in coordination with and at the request of federal law enforcement, into Americans’ private transactions is alarming and raises serious concerns about the FBI’s respect for fundamental civil liberties,” the press release continued.

“In other words, FinCEN urged large financial institutions to comb through the private transactions of their customers for suspicious charges on the basis of protected political and religious expression,” read a portion of a letter from Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to Noah Bishoff, the former Director of the Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations Division of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

Steve Forbes called out Yellen’s testimony and slammed the ongoing encroachment of the federal government into the private lives of Americans as “tyranny.”

“What she’s saying is, ‘we did it, and we just don’t want to admit it in public,'” Forbes said on “The Bottom Line” on Fox Business Network.

He said recent revelations about government interference and censorship speaks to what Americans fear, that “more and more of our freedoms are being taken away.”

Yellen’s testimony Tuesday sparked heated criticism on social media.

Frieda Powers


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