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(Photo: Lianhao Qu / Unsplash)
Last year, the FBI conducted nearly 3.4 million searches of American data – without a single warrant.

Since 2013, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has published its Annual Transparency Statistical Report (ASTR), which reveals “the use of national security oversight bodies by the US intelligence community.” (The most recognizable of these may be the Foreign Intelligence Monitoring Act of 1978, which sets out basic rules for various forms of law enforcement surveillance.) This comprehensive report covers a wide range of intelligence updates and data, but this edition is uniquely concerned.

As originally noticed from The Wall Street Journal, ASTR for the calendar year 2021 states that the FBI conducted “less than 3,394,053” inquiries of individuals in the United States between December 2020 and November 2021. Although the FBI is legally required to receive an order from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Observatory (FISC) before you access the results of any search, none of these searches include an order.

(Photo: FBI)

Searches are permitted under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act 2008, which allows the federal government to monitor aliens. Section 702 allows the government to force Internet service providers and wireless operators to provide personal data in the name of foreign intelligence. DNI’s own section 702 primer emphasizes that this section allows only targeted electronic surveillance of those outside the United States, saying that the intelligence community is not allowed to target American citizens at any time, regardless of their location, but the DNI quietly allows the FBI to operate according to their own interpretation of rules.

According to the latest ASTR, the FBI’s standard for conducting searches under Section 702 is “fundamentally different” from that of other agencies in the intelligence community. When the NSA, CIA, and NCTC are authorized to make inquiries about foreign intelligence information acquired under Section 702 and non-content, the FBI is authorized to make inquiries that are reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information and… inquiries that are reasonable. likely to return evidence of a crime, “the report said. This means that the FBI can make any inquiry that it (along with the FISC) deems relevant for a criminal or foreign intelligence investigation, whether the target is a U.S. citizen. This special privilege has been available to the FBI since 2009.

The report states that multiple inquiries from the same person are reported as separate when conducted by the FBI, meaning that nearly 3.4 million inquiries may have covered fewer than 3.4 million Americans. However, FBI officials acknowledge that the figure is “certainly large.” “I will not pretend it is not,” a senior official told a news briefing.

Since then, federal officials have said at least half of the searches are related to an investigation involving a Russian threat to critical US infrastructure. At the time of writing, staff have not provided further details on the alleged threat.

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