The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court recently revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had improperly surveilled Americans over 278,000 times during the year ending in November 2021.
According to a court document of 127 pages from April 2022, which was unveiled on Friday, the FBI used its warrantless surveillance powers improperly to target protesters at the Capitol in January 2021 and the George Floyd Riots during summer 2020. The FBI also monitored 19,000 donors to a defeated candidate for Congress.
The filings state that, in relation to the surveillance of political donors, “the analyst who ran this query advised that it was a campaign that was under foreign influence. However, NSD [National Security Division] decided that only eight of the identifiers were sufficient to be able to satisfy the standard of querying.”
Fox News Digital reports that while it’s unclear to which campaign this filing refers, the candidate didn’t win the election.
The FBI used Section 702 improperly between May 30, 2020 and June 18, 2021 to monitor “133 individuals arrested for civil unrest or protests” that were sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The filings reported that an FBI employee ran over 23,000 queries to “find possible foreign influences, even though the analyst who conducted the queries did not have any indications of foreign involvement related to the query terms used.”
The section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives the federal government authority to conduct surveillance on foreigners. It also allows the FBI collect intelligence on Americans who have ties with those foreign suspects.
FISA section 702 will expire by the end of this year. The section will be reauthorized only after the FISA agency reforms it.
FBI Director Christopher Wray insists that the agency is already taking steps to reform its querying procedures in order to prevent the improper surveillance of Americans from happening again.
Fox News Digital reported that a senior FBI official said Wray had “made clear” the errors in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion were “completely unacceptable”.
The official said, “We are committed in continuing our work and providing greater transparence into the process, to earn the confidence of the American public and advance our mission to safeguard both the nation’s safety, privacy, and civil liberties at the same time.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported that the FBI had made fewer inquiries between 2021-2022.
The agency sent 204,000 inquiries to Americans during the year ending in November 2022, a decrease of 94% compared with 3.4 million inquiries the previous year.