On Friday afternoon, the court document revealing the FBI’s illegal use of a digital monitoring tool on ordinary Americans over 278,000 times in 2020 and 2021 was made public.
The CIA reportedly targeted January 6 victims, criminal suspects, and 19,000 funders to a Congressional candidate using the Section 702 electronic database, as reported by the Washington Post. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court oversees the Section 702 database, which is accessible to the FBI and NSA. The FBI can only look into the database if they have reason to believe material from foreign intelligence services is hidden there.
The FBI frequently violated the three-part standard articulated by the government,” wrote FISA Court Judge Rudolf Contreas. “In October 2018, the Court concluded that ‘the FBI’s repeated non-compliant queries of Section 702 information’ precluded findings that its Section 702 querying and minimization procedures, as implemented, satisfied the definition of ‘minimization procedures’ … and were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
Breaking: FBI searched massive spying database improperly in targeting Jan 6 protestors. FBI also used spy database to investigate 19,000 donors to congressional candidate. Even leftist rioters targeted. The database contains digital and other information collected on foreign… pic.twitter.com/uU0OUfD17T— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) May 19, 2023
“The Court cited as a contributing factor in FBI’s non-compliance a ‘lack of common understanding within FBI and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice of what it means for a query to be reasonably likely to return foreign-intelligence information or evidence of crime,’” he added.
The court estimated that there were about 300,000 violations between 2020 and early 2021. One FBI agent investigated 23,132 Americans after the January 6 protests at the Capitol, despite having no evidence to suggest any of them had links to foreign governments, according to the report.
According to the Washington Post, the bureau has blamed the abuses on a “misunderstanding” as to what the standards for accessing the database were. “We’re not trying to hide from this stuff, but this type of noncompliance is unacceptable,” a senior FBI official told the outlet. “There was confusion historically about what the query standard was,” said another law enforcement source.
According to Judge Contreras, systemic abuses within the FBI might result in the denial of access for some personnel.
“Nonetheless, compliance problems with the querying of Section 702 information have proven to be persistent and widespread,” Contreras wrote. “If they are not substantially mitigated by these recent measures, it may become necessary to consider other responses, such as substantially limiting the number of FBI personnel with access to unminimized Section 702 information.”