A newly declassified court document revealed Wednesday, April 28, that the FBI’s FBI abused the classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act FISA program, including searching the personal information of people who came to the bureau and reported themselves as victims.
The FISA court reported in the newly released documents that the FBI’s search violations included approximately 124 inquiries for secret information conducted by an FBI information specialist between April 11, 2019, and July 8, 2019, with the help of FISA, which allows warrantless surveillance of foreign nationals outside the United States. However, the FBI is also alleged to have ultimately used the act to obtain information on U.S. persons.
In addition, authorities illegally viewed information on those who requested to attend the bureau-run citizens academy, a program for local leaders designed to promote understanding of the role of law enforcement. People who need access to work in the field offices where FBI personnel are located, including those in positions such as maintenance, also attend the Citizens Academy.
In another category of cases, people who enter an FBI field office (details not provided by the institution) to report that they are victims of crime are also subject to FISA background checks.
Chief Court Judge James Boasberg noted that in one case, an FBI task force officer used FISA to conduct 69 inquiries, but none of those searches complied with the agency’s rules.
The report also cites a number of incidents in which the FBI involved inquiries of U.S. persons designed to uncover evidence of crimes completely unrelated to foreign intelligence, practices that were not approved by the courts. The same problems were found the previous year, suggesting that similar violations may have been occurring throughout the Bureau. These reports and analyses show that FBI staff repeatedly abused FISA to obtain information.
The court found in 2018 that agency agents improperly searched a vast foreign surveillance database to obtain tens of thousands of phone numbers and email addresses, including those of U.S. persons.
In addition, the watchdog reviewed the FBI’s application for a warrant to spy on President Trump’s former aide, Carter Page, and found 17 material errors or omissions.
Boasberg ultimately ordered the FBI to revise its procedures involving the act, and the latest changes were submitted to the court last year.
Jake Laperruque, senior counsel for Project On Government Oversight, tweeted that the new documents show the FBI has been conducting so-called backdoor searches of people on the grounds that they were “used for domestic policing. backdoor searches of people without legal approval from the courts.
According to Laperruque, “Essentially, this means that the FBI was able to conduct warrantless domestic searches without FISA court approval, at best by negligent personnel, and at worst by the Bureau’s default to obtain probable cause for intelligence abuse.”