Judicial Watch today announced that a court hearing was held (audio) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Friday, March 10, 2023, in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for records of communication between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and several financial institutions about the reported transfer of financial transactions made by people in DC, Maryland and Virginia on January 5 and January 6, 2021(Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:21-cv-01216)).
The appeal was heard by a three-judge panel: Circuit Judge Wilkins, and Senior Circuit Judges Rogers and Tatel. An audio of this morning’s hearing can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/live/Hfa6qg4SEyA
Judicial Watch filed its appeal in November 2022, 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 the financial transaction records.
Judicial Watch asked 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 argued:
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 pointed 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 cited two additional cases where the FBI describes in publicly available court records its use of financial records in the January 6 investigation.
Judicial Watch concluded:
[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.