HOMELAND SECURITY – In recent years, the FBI has been criticized by federal judges over its use of the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) vast electronic sweep of emails, texts and other electronic data. But a newly declassified, and heavily-redacted, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court report, now shows that in 2020 the FBI searched through troves of communications gathered by NSA without a court order for information specifically on alleged “racially motivated violent extremists.”
This FISA report “shows the FBI has continued to perform warrantless searches through the NSA’s most sensitive databases for routine criminal investigations, despite being told by a federal judge in 2018 and 2019 that such a use was an unconstitutional breach of privacy,” the Daily Mail reported.
This issue is particularly worrying as Biden’s Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are conducting politicized witch hunts for ill-defined “domestic extremists” within their ranks, and Congress ponders new domestic terror laws. The FBI focused many of its warrantless searches – commonly referred to as ‘backdoor queries’ – on suspected ‘far-right’ domestic terrorists, The Daily Beast reported.
In 2019, a federal court ruled the U.S. government can collect information about its citizens without obtaining a warrant if the information is gathered inadvertently while legally carrying out surveillance of non-nationals abroad, such as the NSA does routinely.
However, while ‘incidental’ collection of Americans’ data is allowed, sifting through databases of stored NSA information likely violates the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, analysts say.
The FBI has traditionally only been allowed to seek data in cases of national security. But after the bureau began making requests for routine criminal investigations, the FISA courts have been cracking down on how the FBI can access the data of Americans who are caught in these sweeps, noted the Daily Mail.
In the newly released FISA report, a judge said the FBI’s Fourth Amendment violations were still “apparently widespread.”
The Daily Mail also noted that it is unclear from the FISA report whether the FBI uncovered any criminal ‘extremist’ behavior or made any arrests resulting from the searches. Also unknown is what the Bureau did with seized data that was harmless or irrelevant to its search.
What is also unclear is just how many law abiding Americans had their personal data viewed by the FBI in its search for “racially motivated” extremists.
A senior FBI official told the Daily Mail that the FBI had taken ‘numerous steps’ to comply with the FISA court guidance over the past 18 months. ADN