Charlotte FBI, Bank of America dragged into congressional dispute over Capitol riot
A suspended FBI employee from Charlotte who gave whistleblower testimony Thursday to a Republican-led congressional subcommittee had his security clearance revoked over his handling of a Jan. 6-related investigation, and amid questions from his superiors concerning his “allegiance to the United States.”
Meanwhile, an interim subcommittee report released earlier in the day accuses Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte, of targeting conservatives by turning over confidential consumer data from customers who used their credit cards in Washington, D.C., around the time of the Capitol attack.
Marcus Allen, a staff operations specialist with the FBI Charlotte Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, was among three former or current FBI employees who appeared before the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government over how the bureau is allegedly “purging” agents and other employees with conservative political views.
However, in a letter to the subcommittee’s chairman, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, FBI Assistant Director Christopher Dunham said Allen’s top-secret security clearance had been revoked by his Charlotte superiors this month after he had “expressed sympathy for persons or organizations that advocate, threaten or use force or violence,” the New York Times and other outlets reported.
Allen’s actions, according to Dunham, raised security concerns in the Charlotte Field Office about his “allegiance to the United States.” Allen has been suspended without pay since February 2022.
The subcommittee’s report claims that Allen and two other FBI employees who testified were punished for either doing their jobs or speaking out against “the politicization” of the bureau.
In an email to The Charlotte Observer on Thursday, the FBI said the retaliation claims are not true.
“The FBI’s mission is to uphold the Constitution and protect the American people,” the bureau said. “The FBI has not and will not retaliate against individuals who make protected whistleblower disclosures.”
The subcommittee’s report also alleges that Bank of America “voluntarily and without any legal process,” gave the Washington office of the FBI “a list of individuals who made transactions in the Washington, D.C., area using a BoA product” between Jan. 5-7, 2021.
Customers in the D.C. area at the time who had used a BoA credit card to buy a gun in the past were “reportedly elevated to the top of the list,” according to a now retired FBI analyst who testified to the subcommittee in March, the report states.
Under questioning by the subcommittee, however, the retired analyst, George Hill, acknowledged that he merely had seen a record about the bank’s activities in the FBI’s case-management system but did not open it, CNN reported at the time.
Based on court files tied to its Jan. 6 investigation, the FBI frequently received court approval to acquire banking and communications records to pinpoint the locations of suspects or to search for evidence of crimes.
The subcommittee’s report, however, described Bank of America’s actions in more critical terms — as “an invasion of the privacy of American citizens (that is) decidedly concerning.”
In response to the subcommittee’s allegations, a spokeswoman for Bank of America told the Observer on Thursday that the bank “follows all applicable laws and regulatory requirements to receive, evaluate, process, safeguard, and narrowly respond to law enforcement requests.”
The weaponization subcommittee was formed by the House Republican majority to investigate purported corruption and bias in the federal government — from the so-called “Deep State” probes of former President Donald Trump to alleged improper business activity by Hunter Biden as well as the FBI’s supposed “anti-parent” investigations into angry school protests over books, curriculum and pandemic response.
Its FBI whistleblower report involving Jan. 6 comes the same week as the release of the findings of a Trump administration-appointed special prosecutor that criticizes the FBI’s probe of possible links between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The four-year investigation by John Durham cost taxpayers $6.5 million but led to only one criminal conviction — not to the purported widespread FBI conspiracy, which Republicans contend, improperly targeted Trump.
Nonetheless, Russell Dye, a spokesman for Jordan, dismissed Dunham’s letter as a “last-minute Hail Mary” by the FBI “to salvage their reputation after John Durham illuminated their election interference and before brave whistleblowers testify about the agency’s politicized behavior and retaliation against anyone who dares speak out.”
The report and subcommittee hearing spotlights the roles of Charlotte and other FBI field offices in the massive federal investigation of Jan. 6., when thousands of Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol to block congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election win.
More than 1,000 arrests have been made to date. At least 28 have come from North Carolina. Ten N.C. residents have already been sentenced to prison.
‘Excercise extreme caution‘
Allen, according to Dunham’s letter, sent an email from his bureau account to co-workers several months after the Capitol attack, urging them to “exercise extreme caution and discretion in pursuit of any investigative inquiries or leads pertaining to the events” of Jan. 6.
He also sent an email linking to a website stating that “federal law enforcement had some degree of infiltration among the crowds gathered at the Capitol,” which Allen said raised “serious concerns” about the U.S. government’s participation in the riot, according to The Times.
In addition, when Allen was asked to conduct “open source searches on a Jan. 6 subject” from North Carolina, he reported that he found nothing to show that the suspect “engaged in criminal activity nor did he find a nexus to terrorism.”
As a result of Allen’s summary, the case was closed. It was reopened when another FBI employee provided “readily available” information that the subject in question had assaulted a Capitol police officer on Jan. 6 — “information ... that should have been obtained by Mr. Allen when he conducted his search,” according to Dunham.
At least seven N.C. defendants have been convicted or accused of assaulting police on Jan. 6. Overall, 140 officers were injured defending the Capitol from the mob.
When asked by the Observer for the identity of the target of Allen’s investigation and whether that person has been charged, the FBI did not respond.
In a federal lawsuit filed in South Carolina, Allen said his suspension letter on Jan. 10, 2022 — which he says he received in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant off Carowinds Boulevard — accused him of espousing “conspiratorial views” and promoting “unreliable information which indicates support for the events of January 6th.”
Allen, who lives in Lancaster, S.C., denies the allegations.
He joined the FBI in 2015 after previous serving as a Marine intelligence specialist in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He received the “Employee of the Year Award” from the Charlotte Field Office in 2019.
In his complaint against Christopher Wray, he accuses the FBI director of multiple First Amendment violations, including “content- and viewpoint-based discrimination,” as well as retaliation.
Allen also wants his security clearance restored and to be returned to his job.