FBI is Exposed For Abusing Section 702 Surveillance Powers on US Senator & Other Elected Officials

According to court records released on July 21, 2023, the FBI improperly used surveillance powers to carry out searches for information on a United States Senator, a state elected official, and a state judge. 

The release of these court records is part of a public records request. The FBI’s abuse of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was highlighted in an opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). 

The tool granted the government the power to conduct warrantless spying on foreigners living abroad. This tool has received long-standing criticism from civil liberties proponents for functioning as a backdoor tool for obtaining information on Americans who may be communicating with the individuals being spied on.

Furthermore, critics believe that the information the FBI collects through 702 is too easily used for investigations with no foreign connection.

The FISC listed three examples of cases where FBI personnel carried out searches of “sensitive query terms,” such as those of US public officials or candidates, without first obtaining approval from the FBI’s deputy director.

“In June 2022, an analyst conducted four queries of Section 702 information using the last names of a U.S. Senator and a state senator, without further limitation,” the opinion highlighted. 

While the two elected officials were presumed to be targets of “a specific foreign intelligence service,” the National Security Division at the Department of Justice came to the conclusion that the FBI did not meet the necessary standard for carrying out such a query. 

Further, in October 2022, the opinion highlighted that “a Staff Operations Specialist ran a query using the Social Security number of a state judge who ‘had complained to [the] FBI about alleged civil right violations perpetrated by a municipal chief of police.’”

The opinion did not explicitly state who the actual individuals searched were. 

This is not the first instance an elected official was improperly searched through Section 702. Illinois Congressman Darin LaHood claimed back in March that his name was searched using Section 702.

Section 702 is slated for expiration at the end of 2023. Elected officials in both parties have stated that they will not reauthorize the tool without significant overhauls made to it. 

It’s good to see that the FBI is facing more scrutiny from lawmakers. For far too long, the American public has treated the FBI as an impartial institution, when all evidence shows that it’s an unconstitutional agency whose behavior would make the Founding Fathers roll over in their graves. 

This scrutiny obviously needs to be dialed up. However, this must be followed by measures to restrict the FBI’s powers, defund it, and eventually abolish it. 

If we want to live in a truly free constitutional republic, the FBI can no longer be allowed to exist.

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