Republican Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Andy Biggs of Arizona are seeking answers from FBI Director Christopher Wray after a declassified opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court revealed “widespread” FISA abuse by the FBI, Fox News reported Tuesday.
Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence unsealed a November opinion from the FISC, the outlet reported.
Jordan and Biggs believe this opinion from the FISC, the court overseeing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act system, reveals that the FBI “has been seriously and systematically abusing its warrantless electronic surveillance authority,” they said in a letter Tuesday.
They argued that it “only raises more questions about the FBI’s respect for the constitutional and statutory parameters of FISA.”
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) May 4, 2021
The opinion describes the FBI’s “apparent widespread violations” of privacy rules while engaging in surveillance under FISA’s Section 702, Fox News reported.
Under Section 702, the attorney general and the director of national intelligence can jointly authorize surveillance of non-US persons without a warrant. However, this surveillance is subject to certain conditions.
To prevent any “intentional acquisition” of U.S. domestic communications during surveillance, the section requires that “targetting procedures” be adopted, the report said.
Section 720 also mandates the use of minimization and querying procedures. Before reviewing Section 702 query results for criminal investigations that are not related to national security, the government needs to get a FISC order.
According to Fox News, the declassified opinion revealed that a Justice Department audit of the government’s Section 702 querying-safeguards-compliance found the FBI to have “violated the querying standard.”
The FISC further found that the “FBI’s failure to properly apply its querying standard when searching section 702-acquired information was more pervasive than was previously believed,” the report said.
In approximately 40 queries, the opinion stated, the FBI tried to access information for investigations not related to foreign surveillance, such as “healthcare fraud, transnational organized crime, violent gangs, domestic terrorism involving racially motivated violent extremists, as well as investigations relating to public corruption and bribery,” according to Fox News.
Judge James E. Boasberg, FISC chief judge, concluded that the FBI’s “widespread violations” were concerning.
In a Tuesday letter to Wray, Jordan and Biggs described the news of the violations as “particularly disturbing in light of prior FBI misconduct.”
“We write to request information about the FBI’s illegal spying activities,” the congressmen wrote in their letter requesting the bureau to explain why it was “abusing” FISA, “given the seriousness of this matter for civil liberties.”
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) May 4, 2021
The congressmen further asked the FBI to immediately provide a detailed account of every instance where the agency accessed information under FISA for purposes not related to national security.
Jordan and Biggs also asked Wray what steps are being taken to “prevent the FBI from using its section 702 authorities to surveil, investigate, or otherwise examine U.S. citizens,” the outlet reported.
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