FISA court records show the FBI abused its search powers without warrant more than 278,000 times in 2021
According to an unsealed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) file, in the year ending November 2021, the FBI unlawfully used unsolicited search powers against U.S. citizens more than 278,000 times.
U.S. citizens affected by this inappropriate action included those involved in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot; George Floyd protesters in summer 2020; and donors to a failed congressional candidate, the filing said.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the government to conduct targeted surveillance of non-US residents abroad in order to obtain foreign intelligence information. If US citizens are identified as part of this investigation, the FBI will take over the questioning of those individuals for possible security reasons.
The court filing, which was 127 pages long, was unsealed by the FISC on Friday but filed in April 2022.
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The FBI was under investigation for Section 702 abuse, and FBI Director Christopher Wray said the FBI has taken steps to reform the system.
Fox News Digital first reported last month that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that due to the office’s changes, there was a “significant decrease” in the total number of inquiries the FBI made to US citizens between 2021 and 2022, according to Section 702 addressed its “systems, processes, and training related to U.S. personal inquiries” made.
In the year ended November 2022, the FBI conducted a total of about 204,000 queries, a 94% decrease from the prior-year reporting period when it conducted nearly 3.4 million.
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The filing, released Friday, detailed a number of the prohibited queries, including a bulk query for “over 19,000 donors for a congressional campaign.”
“The analyst who conducted the poll said the campaign was targeted by foreign influence, but by the NSD [National Security Division] found that only eight identifiers used in the query had sufficient connections to foreign influence activities to meet the query standard,” the filing said.
It is unclear which congressional campaign the filing relates to. Fox News has learned that the nominee was not a member of Congress and did not win his election.
The filing also states that in June 2020, a further series of inquiries were conducted “using the identifiers of 133 people arrested in connection with riots and protests between approximately May 30 and June 18, 2020.” .
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The reason for the riots was the death of George Floyd in police custody in May 2020.
“The interrogation was conducted to determine whether the FBI had “derogatory counter-terrorism information” about those arrested without the knowledge of “specific potential links to terrorist activity” by those conducting the interrogations,” the filing said .
The filing revealed that an FBI agent conducted more than 23,000 queries “to determine possible foreign influence, although the analyst conducting the queries had no evidence of foreign influence related to the query term used.”
The filing states, “As a result of these queries, no section 702 raw data access was performed.”
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Queries can help “find connections between individuals and organizations” and identify threats to the US homeland or national security interests abroad. Queries also help identify potential victims of national security threat activities, such as potential victims of cyberattacks by foreign actors on US infrastructure.
Between December 2021 and November 2022, there was a “slight increase” in inquiries from the FBI for criminal evidence. But the number of cases in which the FBI “did not obtain a necessary court order before reviewing the results of certain pure criminal evidence” declined.
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The report also shows that in the year to November 2022, the FBI had “no” investigations into US persons who are not considered to be threats to national security.
FISA Section 702 is scheduled to expire on December 31, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are proposing reforms to reauthorize the section, with more scrutiny from Congress.
After a 2019 review by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, FISA reform became a priority for both Republicans and Democrats. That review found significant inaccuracies and omissions by the FBI in a 2016 FISA warrant application to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and has since proposed significant reforms to FISA Section 702.