A court disclosure issued Friday exposed multiple egregious abuses of a spy program the Biden administration is asking Congress to renew.
The relevant law, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows spy agencies to collect and search data including emails and other communications.
Officials say it facilitates high priority work on China and Russia while addressing threats like terrorism and cybersecurity.
But even before the court’s opinion, the renewal faced bipartisan opposition due to its controversial use of surveillance against Americans.
The newly revealed violations concern FBI employees inappropriately searching the last names of an unnamed US senator, who has reportedly been notified of the violation, as well as a state senator.
Another FBI agent improperly queried the Social Security number of a state judge who had accused a municipal chief of police of civil rights violations.
In each case, the Justice Department’s national security division reviewed the inquiries and found they didn’t meet FBI standards of evidence required.
The ALCU’s deputy director of its National Security Project issued a statement demanding Congress reigns in the intelligence community.
“As Congress debates reauthorizing Section 702, these opinions show why that can’t happen without fundamental reforms,” Patrick Toomey said.
Bipartisan Opposition Based on Past Violations
These are not the first violations of Section 702.
Earlier this year, officials disclosed that the FBI improperly searched databases for information after the incident on January 6th as well as following widespread riots after George Floyd died in police custody.
Those disclosures caught the attention of both Democrats and Republicans, but more Republicans have jumped on board after multiple failures were revealed about the FBI’s investigation of former President Donald Trump and alleged collusion between his 2016 and Russia.
FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a statement of defense, citing reforms the agency has made lately.
“We take seriously our role in protecting national security and we take just as seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of our Section 702 authorities,” Wray said in his statement. “We will continue to focus on using our Section 702 authorities to protect American lives and keeping our Homeland safe, while safeguarding civil rights and liberties.”