FBI Agents Misused FISA Data to Surveil ‘Political Party,’ US Congressman, Audit Finds

By Published on February 13, 2023

FBI personnel improperly ran Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) information search efforts while investigating a local political party and a U.S. congressman, according to recently released Attorney General and National Intelligence Director Report.

Procedures limit how authorities can use personal identifying information to retrieve data obtained under FISA Section 702, which allows intelligence agencies to conduct targeted surveillance of foreigners outside the U.S., the December 2021 semiannual compliance report indicates. The report, which covers incidents from December 2019 through May 2020, says the FBI in one instance queried a local political party’s names to determine if it had foreign intelligence connections, and an intelligence analyst performed queries “using only the name of a U.S. congressman.”

FBI Section 702 queries must be reasonably designed to identify foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime, yet the political party query “was not reasonably likely” to retrieve such foreign intelligence data, according to the report. The DOJ National Security Division and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence decided the queries using the congressman’s name, which successfully retrieved FISA-acquired information, failed to comply with Section 702 rules by querying the congressman’s name “with no limiters.”

The report cited these as instances where FBI personnel “misunderstood” query rules.

“Notwithstanding a focused and concerted effort by FBI personnel to comply with the requirements of Section 702, misunderstandings regarding FBI’s systems and FBI’s querying procedures caused a large number of query errors,” the report said. “Even so, the numbers of FBI query errors, and FBI compliance incidents overall, reported during this reporting period were significantly lower than they have been in the past few reporting periods.”

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Only a small percentage of traditional FISA surveillance warrant requests appear to have been rejected from 1979 through 2021, while tens of thousands were approved, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The DOJ eventually admitted that two of its four FISA surveillance applications to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were “not valid,” with an inspector general’s report finding “significant” errors and omissions.

The FBI did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

 

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