Lawmakers Seek FISA Reforms After Reported Abuses

Federal lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are calling to reform provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that could allow the warrantless surveillance of United States citizens after a declassified report found abuses by the FBI as recently as last year.

“Another gross overstep by the [FBI] that further erodes the public’s trust,” the Washington Examiner reported Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., saying in a statement regarding the revelation, adding, “Attorney General [Merrick] Garland: Who is being held accountable for this?”

The partially redacted court ruling, declassified by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines last week, found that the FBI conducted inappropriate searches in 2022, including the names of a U.S. Senator and a state senator and a search using a judge’s Social Security number.

“The FBI improperly used an intelligence database (again) to search for information about a U.S. senator and other state officials,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said of the ruling, according to the Examiner. “It won’t stop until Congress reins in their power.”

The recent report and ruling said the agencies had enacted some reforms and that recent queries audited showed those new reforms are successful in keeping them in compliance with the law and Fourth Amendment.

In response to the report, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the new measures are working and that his agency is committed to “full compliance” with the law.

“The 2023 FISC Opinion confirms the significant improvement in the FBI’s Section 702 querying compliance since the implementation of our substantial reforms,” Wray said in a statement. “Section 702 is critical in our fight against foreign adversaries. 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.

“Compliance is an ongoing endeavor, and we recently announced new additional accountability measures. 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.”

Section 702 allows only for the “individualized and limited” surveillance of “non-U.S. persons who are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States and who are assessed by the intelligence community to possess or communicate specific types of foreign intelligence information identified by the attorney general and the director of national intelligence,” the INTEL.gov website said.

According to the site, subjects targeted under the act must meet criteria established by the attorney general and national security director.

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