On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported the following:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation performed potentially millions of searches of American electronic data last year without a warrant, U.S. intelligence officials said Friday, a revelation likely to stoke longstanding concerns in Congress about government surveillance and privacy.
An annual report published Friday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million searches of U.S. data that had been previously collected by the National Security Agency.
Senior Biden administration officials said the actual number of searches is likely far lower, citing complexities in counting and sorting foreign data from U.S. data. It couldn’t be learned from the report how many Americans’ data was examined by the FBI under the program, though officials said it was also almost certainly a much smaller number.
The report doesn’t allege the FBI was routinely searching American data improperly or illegally.
The disclosure of the searches marks the first time a U.S. intelligence agency has published an accounting, however imprecise, of the FBI’s grabs of American data through a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that governs some foreign intelligence gathering. The section of FISA that authorizes the FBI’s activity, known as Section 702, is due to expire next year.
I think the Republicans need to be very careful about any law they pass that involves searching records, electronic or otherwise. This section of the FISA law needs to be allowed to expire next year. The fuse that began the use of government agencies for political purposes is found in the Patriot Act.
On Thursday, The Conservative Treehouse noted:
After the Patriot Act was triggered, not coincidentally only six weeks after 9/11, a slow and dangerous fuse was lit that ends with the intelligence apparatus being granted a massive amount of power. The problem with assembled power is always what happens when a Machiavellian network takes control over that power and begins the process to weaponize the tools for their own malicious benefit. That is exactly what Barack Obama was all about.
The Obama network took pre-assembled intelligence weapons we should never have allowed to be created, and turned those weapons into tools for his radical and fundamental change. The target was the essential fabric of our nation. Ultimately, this corrupt political process gave power to create the Fourth Branch of Government, the Intelligence Branch. From that perspective the fundamental change was successful.
The Wall Street Journal article concludes:
“For anyone outside the U.S. government, the astronomical number of FBI searches of Americans’ communications is either highly alarming or entirely meaningless,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), a privacy advocate, said. “Somewhere in all that overcounting are real numbers of FBI searches, for content and for nonconsent—numbers that Congress and the American people need before Section 702 is reauthorized.”
At a conference later Friday, Matt Olsen, the chief of the Justice Department’s national security division, said agencies were discussing what they could declassify about the use of Section 702 to demonstrate its value. He added that he expected to be able to share more information in the coming months.
The FBI has previously faced scrutiny for its oversight of how authorities plumb Section 702 data, including a rebuke from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2018 that found some searches violated the constitutional privacy rights of Americans.
In response, the FBI has imposed new safeguards meant to better ensure compliance. Those include a requirement that all searches involving 100 or more query terms get additional approvals and that analysts actively opt in to search Section 702 data, rather than passively allowing it.
Friday’s report also revealed four instances last year in which the FBI, due to specific factual considerations about a search of data, should have sought approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before performing a search and looking at the content of U.S. communications that were produced.
The FBI has never sought approval from the court since the requirement was adopted in 2018, officials said.
Please follow the links above to read both articles. Big brother is watching all of us.