Nothing to See Here, Move Along
It appears that the FBI searched NSA data on Americans millions of times last year.
Something that needs to be understood here, the concerning thing is not that most, or even many, of the FBI are gleefully willing to run roughshod over the law and constitution to get data, though I would not be surprised if this was the case for the misbegotten spawn of J. Edgar Hoover, it is that everyone does it because it is easier.
This means that the people who are doing this with actual malice, like those NSA employees who used their position to spy on their girlfriends and wives, are never noticed in the flood of illegality:
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.
Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? (Mandy Rice-Davies applies)
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.
And it should be allowed to expire.
This program is all about making things as easy as possible for police to surveil people without oversight or restrictions. The term for such a form of government is a police state.
The FBI conducted approximately 3.39 million searches that included terms, also called identifiers, linked to a presumed U.S. person from Dec. 1, 2020, to Nov. 30, 2021, according to the report. The number of searches for the previous 12-month period was about 1.3 million.
Sounds like the Biden administration is letting the US state security apparatus run wild.
That’s no surprise, they have stated this explicitly on a number of occasions.
The searches described by Friday’s ODNI report concern a large repository of electronic data collected by the NSA under Section 702 of FISA.
Congress last renewed Section 702 in 2018, and then-President Donald Trump signed the renewal into law after openly questioning the measure over unsubstantiated concerns that it was used to spy on his presidential campaign. It is set to expire again at the end of next year, and current and former intelligence officials have said they anticipate a bruising political battle.
Donald Trump is probably wrong when he suggests that it was used to spy on his campaign, private operations were more than capable of doing that, but he was right to be concerned, because with the ability to automate such activity through Section 702, just one bad actor could do some VERY bad thing.
“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.”
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.
And what was done? *crickets*
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.
So, the FBI is ignoring the current legal requirements of Section 72, because, “The Aristocrats!”
That’s plenty of reason to let this provision expire.