(FiveNation.com)- A recent transparency report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that between December 1, 2020, and November 30, 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used its powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct warrantless searches of the communications of nearly 3.4 million Americans.
That is a 260 percent increase in the number of warrantless searches of data from the previous year when the FBI conducted about 1.3 million searches.
According to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal, over half of the data searches, 1.9 million, pertained to FBI investigations of Russian hackers attempting to infiltrate critical US infrastructure.
At a press briefing two weeks ago, an FBI official acknowledged that 3.4 million warrantless data searches “is certainly a large number.” However, other officials said the data specifically pertaining to US citizens is probably lower than this figure.
Admittedly, the DNI report does not suggest that any of these searches, including those of US citizens, was illegal. The FBI was granted the authority to conduct these searches in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The law, passed in 1978, authorizes the collection of private data of “non-US persons” through their communications with US citizens.
According to the report, only 232,432 people were Section 702 targets in 2021. So how is it that nearly 3.4 million warrantless searches were conducted? Well, that’s the beauty of FISA. It permits the FBI to search, not only the communications of the target but the communications of every person who communicates with a Section 702 target.
There is no due process necessary.
And it’s all entirely legal.
Section 702 has been in the crosshairs of civil rights groups for years. These groups argue that granting the government this power is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment.
An attorney from the ACLU blasted the DNI report, saying the extent of these “backdoor searches” underscores “the urgency of the problem.”
Despite the FISA abuse involving members of his campaign, former President Donald Trump reauthorized Section 702 in 2018. The current authorization expires on December 31, 2023.