Judicial Watch announced today it has filed an appeal challenging a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decision allowing the FBI to withhold records of communication between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and several financial institutions about the reported transfer of financial transaction records of people in DC, Maryland and Virginia on January 5 and January 6, 2021 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 22-5209).
The appeal, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, comes in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch after the FBI failed to respond to a February 10, 2021, FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:21-cv-01216)). Judicial Watch is asking for:
All records of communication between the FBI and any financial institution, including but not limited to Bank of America, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Discover, and/or American Express, in which the FBI sought transaction data for those financial institutions’ debit and credit card account holders who made purchases in Washington, DC, Maryland and/or Virginia on January 5, 2021, and/or January 6, 2021.
In its appellate brief, Judicial Watch argues:
This appeal arises from what appears to be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of thousands of Americans. Substantial and compelling evidence demonstrates that the FBI sought and received records from financial institutions of anyone who used a credit card or engaged in other transactions in the Washington, D.C. area on January 5 or 6, 2021. This would include many thousands of persons living in the Washington, DC area, including possibly members of this Court.
In its appeal Judicial Watch points out that the lower court was mistaken when it upheld the FBI’s Glomar response (neither confirming nor denying the existence of records) because the FBI previously acknowledged the existence of the records in multiple ways. For instance, court records filed in support of a criminal case include the FBI’s statement of facts that provides the defendant’s address, which was obtained through “his Bank of America account and recent Expedia transactions.”
In another case, the FBI “confirmed that it obtained records from PNC Bank and discusses in detail the multiple ways that it used the financial data.”
Additionally, “financial records obtained from JP Morgan Chase bank corroborate [the defendant] used a credit card issued in his name to purchase gas and food en route to Washington, DC …”
Judicial Watch cites two additional cases where the FBI describes in publicly available court records its use of financial records in the January 6 investigation.
Judicial Watch concludes:
[Judicial Watch] more than adequately demonstrated that the FBI may have sought and received records from financial institutions of anyone who used a credit card or engaged in other transactions in the Washington, DC area on January 5 or 6. If so, this would be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of thousands of Americans. [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA request to investigate this should not be blocked by a meritless Glomar response.
“We want the details on what looks to be an unprecedented abuse of the financial privacy of countless innocent Americans by big banks and the FBI,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The FBI’s cover-up should be rejected, and the records made public.”
Judicial Watch is engaged in a comprehensive, independent investigation into the January 6 disturbance.
In February 2022, Judicial Watch filed an opposition to the U.S. Capitol Police’s (USCP) effort to shut down Judicial Watch’s federal lawsuit for January 6 videos and emails. Through its police department, Congress argues that the videos and emails are not public records, there is no public interest in their release, and that “sovereign immunity” prevents citizens from suing for their release.
Judicial Watch recently sued the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Justice for records related to the housing of U.S. Capitol Police Lieutenant Michael Byrd at Joint Base Andrews after he shot and killed U.S. Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.