High-ranking Republicans in the House of Representatives are demanding answers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation after court-ordered information surfaced showing that the federal law enforcement agency collected the personal information of more than three million American citizens without a warrant.
The Epoch Times reported that on May 25, FBI Director Christopher Wray was sent a letter from Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio) asking him to explain why the bureau wiretapped and gathered the personal information of over 3.3 million Americans without first obtaining a warrant.
Typically, the limited ability to gather foreign intelligence is granted to a governmental agency by obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant.
Section 702 of this law states: “The Attorney General (AG) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) may jointly authorize the targeting of (i) non-U.S. persons (ii) who are reasonably believed to be outside of the United States (iii) to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
However, the power granted by a FISA warrant can give federal agents ever-expanding networks of people to probe. The information gathered by doing so can then be used by the federal intelligence apparatus against American citizens who have had any interactions with foreign entities targeted by the federal government.
In the past, how FISA warrants have been used to gather intelligence and subsequently leveraged against the American public has been limited and concealed by the federal government through classified reports.
However, in late 2020, a decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) — the entity responsible for serving as a watchdog for the federal intelligence apparatus — mandated that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) report the “number of U.S. person queries run by the FBI against 702-acquired information.”
In alignment with these new protocols, ODNI’s recently released Annual Statistical Transparency Report included data on how often the FBI gathered information on American citizens invoking section 702 this past year.
In total, there were 3,394,053 searches made against individual American citizens. By comparison, there were 1,324,057 total queries made in 2020. This marks a 250% search increase in President Joe Biden's first year in office.
The ODNI reported that more than half of these queries were part of a larger investigation of alleged attempts by Russian nationals to target or weaken critical American infrastructure.