FBI Ran Top Secret “Operation” Targeting Innocent Americans
(UnitedVoice.com) – In 2013, CIA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the US government was spying on its own citizens, including but not limited to, journalists. The news rocked the civil liberties groups, and demands ensued for the Obama administration to stop what they were doing and follow the US Constitution. Just three years later, the FBI abused a special court issuing warrants to allow the federal law enforcement agency in the Trump Russian collusion scandal.
Now, it appears the FBI is still abusing its authority. A new report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reveals the nation’s leading law enforcement agency used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to questionably inspect the communications of nearly 3.4 million Americans without a warrant. The question is, is it legal and constitutional?
FBI Uses Backdoor Searches to Warrantless Monitor Americans
From December 1, 2020, to November 30, 2021, the FBI used its FISA-granted authority to use backdoor searches on American citizens without a warrant. Civil liberties groups say the backdoor searches fall within a loophole in the law that Congress or the courts needs to resolve. The loophole empowers the FBI to read Americans’ private messages it collects unintentionally in an investigation.
In 2018, Congress reauthorized a law from 2008 legalizing warrantless searches, but before officials could review Americans’ communications, the law required the FBI to obtain the court’s permission. According to the New York Times, the FBI has never asked the courts for a warrant to review documents swept up unintentionally.
The 2022 report said reviewers found four compliance incidents where agents combed through information without the required court order.
What’s at the Root of the Problem?
Section 702 of FISA Title VII allows law enforcement to target non-US persons outside the country. The law does not require the FBI to obtain a probable cause court order, even though the FISA court appears to greenlight requests by the FBI. In 2021, as many as 232,432 people were the government’s targets despite the fact they were not criminal suspects.
So, if they’re out of the country, what’s the problem? They communicate with Americans inside the country. The government takes their communications and lumps domestic communications that flow back and forth outside of the country. The result is the government snoops on US citizens.
The question is, is it legal? Some experts suggest it’s technically legal if the courts don’t rule against the practice. Still, many Constitutional experts argue it violates the 4th Amendment, which says the government cannot enact unreasonable searches and seizures and requires probable cause and a warrant to obtain an American’s communications.
Regardless, the report may renew the debate in Congress about the law in the coming year.
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