The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) searched vast troves of international communications for information on American “racially motivated violent extremists” without a court order, Law Officer reported.
A recently declassified report from the United States’ secret surveillance court reveals the FBI has demanded access to massive amounts of electronic communications harvested by the National Security Agency (NSA).
According to Fox News, one of these tactics is a warrantless surveillance scheme that allows the government to collect phone calls and emails from people overseas who communicate with Americans.
Although the surveillance targeted only those living abroad, it was claimed that the FBI’s searches were not intended to return foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime, as required by the database’s regulatory requirements.
It reveals that, after being told by a federal judge in 2018 and 2019, the FBI has continued to conduct warrantless searches of the NSA’s most sensitive databases for routine criminal investigations.
Over the last 18 months, the FBI has taken ‘numerous steps,’ according to a senior FBI official, to comply with the FISA court guidelines.
The FBI continued to breach laws intended to protect the privacy of the American people in 2020, said FISA Chief Justice James Boasberg.
According to Just The News, a July 2019 audit discovered 87 cases in which the FBI consulted “raw FISA obtained” evidence, which means that agents or others at the FBI “weren’t fairly likely to collect foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime” and therefore risked breaching Americans’ privacy without a legal basis.
“There still appear to be widespread violations of the querying standard by the FBI,” Boasberg said, citing cases of NSA records being checked for purposes that were either unnecessary or illegal.
Boasberg also brought up a group of records involving 16,000 individuals, dismissing the FBI’s claim that they were appropriate and legal.
For routine criminal inquiries that are supposed to require warrants, the FBI tends to conduct warrantless searches through the NSA’s most confidential databases—the ones for which the NSA doesn’t need to obtain warrants before filling with communications data.
Since information obtained without a warrant is supposed to be inadmissible, doing so may jeopardize a convicted person’s right to a fair trial. The FBI argued to the court that none of the evidence obtained without a warrant was “used in a criminal or civil proceeding,” but this has occurred before at trial.
A judge said the FBI’s Fourth Amendment abuses are still “apparently widespread” in the recently released FISA study dated November 2020.