Yet another example of corporate contempt for their customers


The constitution contains various provisions (the so-called “Bill of Rights”) relating to the rights and privileges of citizens and individuals.  Among them is the Fourth Amendment, particularly as it relates to “search and seizure”, which requires a judicial warrant in order for one’s property and related information to be searched.  Another is the “right to privacy” that has been identified in various contexts by the US legal system.  For more information on that complex subject, see here, here or here.

There has always been, and continues to be, tension between the US government and the legal system over how much protection such constitutional guarantees actually offer.  We saw a major clash of principles in that regard only a few weeks ago.  Now another threat has emerged:  big business disregarding in their entirety constitutional provisions for privacy, in an attempt to help government.

Bank of America is, without the knowledge or the consent of its customers, sharing private information with federal law enforcement agencies. Bank of America effectively is acting as an intelligence agency, but they’re not telling you about it.

In the days after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Bank of America went through its own customers’ financial and transaction records. These were the private records of Americans who had committed no crime; people who, as far as we know, had absolutely nothing to do with what happened at the Capitol. But at the request of federal investigators, Bank of America searched its databases looking for people who fit a specific profile.

Here’s what that profile was: “1. Customers confirmed as transacting, either through bank account debit card or credit card purchases in Washington, D.C. between 1/5 and 1/6. 2. Purchases made for Hotel/Airbnb RSVPs in DC, VA, and MD after 1/6. 3. Any purchase of weapons or at a weapons-related merchant between 1/7 and their upcoming suspected stay in D.C. area around Inauguration Day. 4. Airline related purchases since 1/6.”

The first thing you should notice about that profile is that it’s remarkably broad. Any purchases of anything in Washington, D.C.; any overnight stay anywhere in an area spanning three jurisdictions and hundreds of miles; any purchase not just of legal firearms, but anything bought from a “weapons-related merchant,” T-shirts included; and any airline-related purchases — not just flights to Washington, but flights to anywhere, from Omaha to Thailand. That is an absurdly wide net.

Bank of America identified a total of 211 customers who met these “thresholds of interest.” At that point, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has learned, Bank of America turned over the results of its internal scan to federal authorities, apparently without notifying the customers who were being spied upon. Federal investigators then interviewed at least one of these unsuspecting people. That person, we’ve learned, hadn’t done anything wrong and was cleared.

Imagine if you were that person. The FBI hauls you in for questioning in a terror investigation, not because you’ve done anything suspicious, but because you bought plane tickets and visited your country’s capital. Now they’re sweating you because your bank, which you trust with your most private information, has ratted you out without your knowledge. Because Bank of America did that, you are being treated like a member of Al Qaeda.

. . .

It’s not even clear that what Bank of America did is even legal. We spoke to a number of lawyers about this, and some of them told us that what Bank of America did might, in fact, not be legal and could, in fact, be challenged in court. One knowledgeable attorney pointed us to 12 U.S.C. 3403. That’s a federal law that allows banks to tip off the feds to any information that “may be relevant to a possible violation of any statute or regulation.”

Now, the Justice Department instructs federal agents to remind banks of that law and, of course, they do so with maximum aggression. But the question is, what legally constitutes information that may be relevant to a possible crime? Does buying a muffin in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 5 make you a potential domestic extremist? 

According to Bank of America, yes. Yes, it does.

There’s more at the link.

This should scare the heck out of anyone who values their privacy – as we all should, but regrettably many do not.  In so many words, it means that every electronic financial transaction may now be used as evidence against you, purely on the grounds of circumstantial linkage, and without any search warrant or other legal safeguard protecting you and your rights.  If you happened to use a Bank of America credit or debit card to buy even a soda from a vending machine in Washington D.C. on January 5th or 6th this year, you were automatically regarded with suspicion.  That’s outlandish, undemocratic, and totalitarian.

Basically, this means we have to go to extreme lengths if we wish to preserve our privacy – and given the ubiquity of security camera surveillance and facial recognition systems, even that won’t be as effective as it once might have been.  Nevertheless, I think the more of us who do it, the better, because we’ll all collectively make it that much more difficult for Big Brother – whether commercial or government – to separate the wheat from the chaff.  We’ll help each other protect individual privacy by making it more difficult to sort out the individuals concerned.

  • Don’t use (or even carry) your cellphone unless absolutely necessary.
  • Pay in cash rather than by card or check.
  • Avoid doing business with companies and businesses that won’t respect your right to privacy.

These, and many similar steps, won’t do much to protect our privacy in today’s technological, surveillance-oriented society;  but they do say that every little helps.

Meanwhile, since it apparently regards my privacy and constitutional rights as unimportant and/or irrelevant, Bank of America can do without my business.  It doubtless won’t lose any sleep over that, but it’s an important principle nonetheless.  I hope more of us will follow it in our future dealings with any and all corporations.



  1. With having banking problems with B of A, Wells Fargo, and Citibank. I will not accept a check from a private citizen or company that draws on those banks. Has it caused some awkward moments? Yes, but I still refuse to accept a check from them. I was doing this before it became cool to do so….

  2. I once had an account with a local bank. It was then bought out by a bigger bank, and then another, until BoA was in control. I have closed that account and now bank with a regional bank. I am keeping an eye on them however.

  3. BofA has been in decline for a very long time. Customers have had problems with them for years, like where they misplace peoples' money. They are the United Airlines of the banks.

    They were caught with their pants down in the 2008 sub-prime mortgage debacle. This is discussed in the book "The Big Short" where the hedge fund manager woke up one morning and had the epiphany that the CEO of BofA was dumb.

  4. I forget if it was Citi or BoA that took over someplace I had an account with. The Rep was somehow STUNNED that I would NOT compromise and I TERMINATED that account with extreme prejudice. And I've NEVER regretted that move. And it's not like I do not deal with some mighty squiffy banks, but even a monster has some Standards!

  5. I got a view behind the curtain when I worked for BofA as a temp in the 80s. I have refused to do business with them ever since.

  6. Sadly, pretty much all the banking institutions have been doing this since 2001, and many since 1994.

    Just it's really obvious now.

    I've played the 'move account to regional bank' so many times it's ridiculous, as they all get swallowed eventually by the biggies.

    My wife has an account started in a small local, not even regional bank, from Melbourne, Fl. From 1980 to now, it's been swallowed by bigger and bigger and bigger banks until BoA finally got ahold of it. But the account is tied into so many things it's hard to pull out of.

    Nowhere is safe. Local, regional, national, international. All open themselves, one way or another, like a crack whore looking for money for another fix to the Feds.

    Dangit. It ought not to be this way. But it is.

    And it's also illegal to keep large sums of money in your house. Or mail actual money. Or to go to the local IRS building and drop off your payment in cash.

    The Feds (thanks to John McCain, Feingold, Barney Frank, Dead Ted Kennedy and a few others) have been able to screw you over via your banking activity for years. Sadly.

  7. Jim- Look at a local credit union, it may be a lot better than a for a profit bank.

    I was with one and after a bit I could not see the difference between them and the bank (fees & attitude mostly). I went to a different CU in the area and they were better, been with them for 17 years now. They are part of the Credit union "co-op" so I can do business with shared branches, I've accessed my CU account from other CUs in many different states over the years.

  8. Unfortunately, we have NO privacy anymore. That's just a fact, and we need to understand it and deal With it the best we can. And don't expect the courts to come down on the side of the Constitution, either.

  9. look into the scandal going on now with BofA and how they have handled the California Unemployment money. People's accounts are being drained by scammers and they claim the inability to do anything.

  10. Phones are surveillance nightmare. Triply so when Apple or Google start being ‘proactive’ along lines of BoA.

    I have two suggestions, one orthodox and the other a bit (shall we say) Sun Tsu-ish.

    1) Get a Linux Phone and use it as a portable WiFi communicator. Never switch it on at home. Not even once. Not even to do the initial setup. Don’t put a SIM card in it. Something like a PinePhone. Only install Signal and Threema for voice and text communication. Use nothing else unless you *really* know what you are doing. More of a learning curve with these, but anyone lacking technical chops to sort this basic level stuff out really should avoid anything more advanced than pen and paper once SHTF or they’re likely to end up in a pit.

    2) Get hold of a Huawei Phone which the previous administration forced to shift over to de-googled Android. Phone blurb will be all about the Huawei App Gallery because it can’t go near the Google Store. Buy with cash in a Chinatown for extra points. Of course it’s telemetried up the wazoo to keep China Big Data fully au fait with your thoughts and bowel movements… but here’s the thing: WTF do you care what some Chinese on the other side of the world knows about your daily doings? That’s the Far Enemy. In fact it’s the Enemy of your Enemy just right now. Can leave the civilizational existential atavistic fight for later. Use WeChat — currently not blocked in the USA and there is huge amount of usage and traffic due to diaspora.

  11. Like others I bank with a credit union. Commercial banks can legally seize your accounts, including safety deposit boxes, to save themselves from their reckless practices. Rules for credit unions are narrower and, in general, credit unions avoid high risks.

  12. Signal is now owned by Twitter. It is owned by the Signal Foundation.

    There is no such thing as totally secure communications (besides the metadata will get you droned in the end anyway).

    But, it is important to understand that the Leftist Hydra isn’t monolithic. The more anarchist types are all in on very secure encryption for their own purposes. It makes sense to swim with the techno fishes when and where appropriate. Same goes for losing one’s messages in the vast sea of Nefarious and Not-so-nefarious Chinese Diaspora messaging.

    @Esteemed Host of this Blog: Thanks for all the work you do and greetings from someone also born back there in a very different time and place.

  13. Correction of typo: Signal *is not owned by Twitter*

    Obviously it’s not owned by anyone on our side of the Great Divide — but then if it were, the tech would suck. Realistically the Poz has most of the top online security guys who don’t work for governments directly.

  14. I've had friends tell me how fictional movies like "Minority Report" could never happen…Riiiight. been a Credit Union guy for 30 years, since Md. Nat. Bank screwed the pooch w/our credit card…cash or debit only, forever!

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