EXCLUSIVE: Documents Show FBI and ATF Warrantless Surveillance Through Gun Background Checks

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has been tracking gun owners without a warrant in a coordinated system with the FBI, according to documents exclusively reviewed by The Epoch Times.

Hundreds of pages of documents produced to Gun Owners of America from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit show ATF agents telling the FBI to daily monitor specific people through the federal background system when they lawfully purchase guns.

The records show dozens of ATF agents requesting the monitoring of law-abiding people through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) The FBI calls this secret system with the ATF the “NICS Monitoring Services.” This is a manual, daily check of firearm sales to see if a specific person buys a gun for as long as the ATF agent wants.

“They are basically tracking—without a warrant—every gun purchase by these people,” Rob Olson, an attorney for Gun Owners of America (GOA), told The Epoch Times. “There’s no legal process here. At best, this is highly questionable, if not outright unlawful.”

A spokesman for ATF declined to comment. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.

No Probable Cause

The NICS system is supposed to be used only to ensure that those prohibited from possessing a firearm are stopped at the point of sale. Yet the ATF and FBI are using it to find fugitives and to track those they suspect of being straw purchasers.

The secret system works by agents emailing the FBI a completed document called “ATF Investigations Information Form for Monitoring Firearms Purchasers in the NICS.” The agents are instructed that they  may request monitoring gun purchases of people “who are under criminal investigation for violations or potential violations of law.”

That means they are monitoring people who buy guns but have not broken the law. The people put in the “NICS Monitoring Services” are never notified and seemingly have no way to appeal being watched without a warrant.

By Emily Miller

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