FBI Misused Foreign Surveillance Powers To Investigate Domestic Crimes

As recently as 2019, the FBI used surveillance tools intended for tracking foreign terrorists and spies in unrelated domestic crime investigations involving Americans without even seeking secret warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.

The information comes from a recent certification report from the FISA Court itself, written in November but declassified and released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Monday.

The report documents 40 instances in which the FBI secretly accessed data collected not about foreigners but about American citizens for investigations of “healthcare fraud, transnational organized crime, violent gangs, domestic terrorism involving racially motivated violent extremists, as well as investigations connected to public corruption and bribery.”

Though it is the FBI’s job to investigate such crimes, in these instances they did so using data collected under the Section 702 authorities of FISA, which does not permit targeting Americans for these types of investigations. Section 702 specifically focuses on unwarranted searches of foreign targets because they don’t have the protections of the Fourth Amendment and therefore their communications can be collected and reviewed. Even with that clearance, the FISA Court exists to make certain that the FBI and National Security Agency do not abuse their access against Americans—which is exactly what happened here.

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