FBI “Searches” Targeting Personal Data Reportedly Up 160%

(FiveNation.com)- A disturbing new trend has emerged out of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: The highest-ranking law enforcement agency in the country is doing more searches into the personal data of Americans.
According to the latest report on transparency released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI searched the data of 3.4 million people in the United States from December 2020 through November 2021. That represents an increase of almost 160% compared to the year before.
The report says that the data the FBI searched was collected by the National Security Agency. Also, just because an American was included in one of the FBI’s searches doesn’t mean they were necessarily the target of a specific search for any reason.
Last Friday, the ODNI released a report that stated:
“[The] FBI counts such query actions as hundreds or thousands of queries, not one query. However, if even one query term in such a query action is associated with a U.S. person, every term in the query action carries the U.S. person label.”
The FBI is allowed to perform these searches of people’s data through the Section 702 provision. As the ODNI explained, that provision is part of the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that permits the government to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside the United States, with the compelled assistance of electronic communication service providers, to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
Nowhere in that description, though, does it say that Section 702 allows the government to search through data of Americans. In fact, it explicitly says “foreign persons located outside the United States,” bringing into question why the FBI was allowed to conduct this surveillance on Americans.
The American Civil Liberties Union characterized those queries as surveillance on communications throughout the country without a warrant. The organization recently said:
“Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. government engages in mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans’ and foreigners’ phone calls, text messages, emails and other electronic communications. Information collected under the law without a warrant can be used to prosecute and imprison people, even for crimes that have nothing to do with national security.”
The ODNI said that the FBI is the lone intelligence agency that has the authority to utilize the provision in the way that they do. The agency has the right so they can obtain evidence of any crime that has been committed and also for “queries that are reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information.”
Queries of Americans aren’t “designed” to result in foreign intelligence being obtained, the ODNI said. And, based on how the system that searches the data is laid out, it might’ve overcounted how many Americans were subject to a query from the FBI.
The ODNI report claimed:
“This system design ensures that all potential U.S. person query terms are captured, but results in an over counting of the number of U.S. person queries actually conducted by the FBI. For this reason, the total number of FBI U.S. person queries is referred to as ‘fewer than’ the total number of queries labeled as U.S. person queries.”