In 2021 and 2022, the FBI conducted thousands of inquiries on digital data acquired on American citizens, despite not having a warrant or justification under its own regulations, according to an internal study published on May 10.
The FBI Office of Internal Auditing (OIA) conducted the audit to examine the agency’s adherence to the Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) guidelines for querying the data that the government routinely collects on American residents.
Even if the communications involve a U.S. citizen, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the government to collect electronic data, such as phone calls, text messages, and emails, from expatriates residing abroad. These data will then be searchable by American authorities investigating matters of national security.
Any data inquiry involving a U.S. citizen is subject to the FISA court’s approved guidelines, which contain three requirements.
It must be justified by a specific factual basis indicating that it is likely to retrieve foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime, be for the purpose of retrieving foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime, be reasonably designed to avoid retrieving information unrelated to the purpose, and comply with additional requirements.
Between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, 4 percent of FISA data searches were unable to meet these requirements, according to the report. Providing an insufficient rationale for the inquiry was the most common cause of failure.
According to a distinct FBI report, the FBI conducted more than 204000 searches of FISA data on Americans in 2022. Given a noncompliance rate of 4%, the FBI would have accessed the digital communications of American citizens more than 8,000 times without a warrant or adequate explanation in accordance with the FISA Court’s guidelines.
Following the implementation of new FISA query procedures in 2021 and 2022 by FBI Director Christopher Wray, an audit was conducted.
Following the discovery of “widespread violations” of the law by the FISA Court, the agency has been criticized. Investigating the correspondence of members of Congress, journalists, political commentators, and government officials was among these offenses.
In response to the Nixon administration’s similarly unauthorized surveillance of American citizens, FISA was established.
Contrast this audit with one conducted between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, which revealed an 18% rate of noncompliance.
In 2021, the FBI submitted approximately 3.4 million FISA requests involving Americans. With an 18% noncompliance rate, the FBI illegally obtained the electronic communications of American citizens 612,000 times in that single year.
Although the number of FISA requests decreased considerably and the FBI’s rate of compliance increased, some privacy advocates were not satisfied with the transition.
“Even if the compliance rate were 100 percent, the government should not be able to access Americans’ communications without a warrant,” Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, stated on Twitter.
“But with a baseline of 8,000 violations per year, there can be no question that a warrant is needed to protect Americans’ fundamental rights.”
In light of the audit findings, the OIA suggested additional adjustments to the FISA data querying protocols. Among these are modifying the system to alert users when they input data incorrectly, requiring all users to complete required training before gaining access to raw FISA data, and enhancing the FISA query conformance monitoring program.
As previously documented by the DC Enquirer, the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election concluded with the publication of U.S. Special Counsel John Durham’s final report.
The lengthy, over 300-page assessment ultimately exonerated President Trump, according to Durham, who noted that “Neither U.S. law enforcement nor the Intelligence Community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion in their possessions at the start of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
According to Just The News, the report asserts that the FBI and the Justice Department erred by allowing the investigation into President Trump to continue without following proper procedure and policy, such as using a FISA warrant to eavesdrop on an American citizen.
“Based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane and related intelligence activities, we concluded the Department and the FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report,” the study states.
“The FBI personnel also repeatedly disregarded important requirements when they continued to seek renewals of that FISA surveillance while acknowledging — both then and in hindsight — that they did not genuinely believe there was probably cause to believe that the target was knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of foreign power,” Durham went on.
Durham concluded that the FBI and Department of Justice should never have opened an investigation into President Trump, but he made no accusations against those responsible.
After the long-awaited report by Special Counsel John Durham was released this week, House Republicans demanded action, claiming that federal intelligence and agencies had been “weaponized” against political adversaries such as former President Donald Trump.
The following week, Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, invited Durham to speak before the panel’s special subcommittee on government weaponization. The Ohio Republican, who together with other Republicans asserted that the research proved Trump was a political target, is now demanding accountability.