(Mark Pellin, Headline USA) In an abuse of civil liberties that could have been ripped from the pages of a Stasi training manual, a bombshell report revealed that the FBI has been using warrantless wiretaps to spy on millions of American citizens.
The federal agency, from December 2020 through November 2021, conducted over 3.3 million U.S. person queries from a database of information collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which does not require a warrant.
The stunning figure marked “a substantial increase from the number of U.S. person queries the FBI conducted from December 2019 to November 2020, which the report stated was approximately 1.3 million,” Reps. Mike Turner and Jim Jordan, two Republicans from Ohio, wrote in a May 24 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“This dramatic increase raises significant questions,” the lawmakers wrote.
And they’re demanding answers.
FISA’s Section 702 allows the U.S. attorney general and the director of National Intelligence “to authorize the targeting of non-U.S. persons who are reasonably believed to be outside of the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information,” according to the congressmen’s letter to Wray.
The FBI, in turn, is authorized to use portions of that information database to do searches of American citizens who might reasonably have had interactions with targeted foreigners.
“Queries that involve U.S. persons raise particular oversight sensitivities to ensure rights are protected,” wrote Jordan, a ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Turner, a ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The massive increase in those American-target queries — more than a 250% increase in a single year — raise massive concerns, they wrote.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said more than half of those cases “were related to attempts to compromise U.S. critical infrastructure by foreign cyber actors, which the Biden Administration has attributed to Russian hackers.”
That explanation fell short of expectations.
In addition to requesting more information about the alleged Russian hackers, the lawmakers also wanted to know how many U.S. citizens were identified and “notified about the compromises.”
The lawmakers also wanted to receive “all guidance documents and training materials currently issued to FBI personnel with access to FISA-acquired data.”
Wray was also asked to provide a “detailed accounting of every instance since December 2019 in which the FBI has queried, accessed, otherwise used information obtained pursuant to Section 702 for evidence of a crime unrelated to national security.”
“Rigorous Congressional oversight of the FBI’s Section 702-related activities is essential given FBI’s track record utilizing its FISA authorities,” they wrote, noting that the government had reported “numerous incidents” in which the FBI “acquired information for criminal investigations and reviewed unminimized content results without first obtaining court permission.”
They found “40 queries in which the FBI accessed information for investigations involving ‘healthcare fraud, transnational organized crime, violent gangs, domestic terrorism involving racially motivated violent extremists, as well as investigations relating to public corruption and bribery,’ all of which were unrelated to foreign surveillance.”
“This is just one example of FBI’s habitual compliance failures, which both the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General and the FISC have substantiated in other reports,” Jordan and Turner wrote.