'Unacceptable': FBI mishandled surveillance database against Black Lives Matter protesters and others
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is under fire for mishandling a major surveillance against victims of crime, Jan. 6 rioters, Black Lives Matter protesters and thousands of "donors to a congressional candidate," The Washington Post reports.
Per The Post, "a newly unsealed court document" reveals the agency mishandled the "database named for the legal statute that created it, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)," over 200,000 times.
Although the publication reports the problem has since been "fixed," the agency remains under scrutiny from lawmakers.
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Furthermore, the FBI's "failures to use" the "database correctly when collecting information about U.S. citizens and others may make it harder for the agency to marshal support in Congress to renew the law, which is due to expire at the end of this year."
Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote in his opinion the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "is encouraged by the amendments to the FBI's querying procedures. Nonetheless, compliance problems with the querying of Section 702 information have proven to be persistent and widespread. If they are not substantially mitigated by these recent measures, it may become necessary to consider other responses, such as substantially limiting the number of FBI personnel with access to unminimized Section 702 information."
Built in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the database has long been considered by U.S. officials to be one of the prize jewels of the national security apparatus. Its primary purpose is targeting foreign intelligence or terrorism information. But the sweeping nature of the information in the database has long worried civil rights advocates, who argue that the government has proved it cannot be trusted to use the system carefully.
Despite the "fixed" issue, the court "has pressured the FBI, writing in the April 2022 opinion that was unsealed Friday that if the agency doesn't perform better, the court will crack down and order its own changes to FBI surveillance practices."
Senior law enforcement officials told The Post Friday "the problems in the report do not represent the FBI’s current practices," and reiterated they have since "been remedied."
A official added, "We're not trying to hide from this stuff, but this type of noncompliance is unacceptable."
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The Washington Post's full report is available at this link (subscription required).
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