© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Biden administration begs to keep spying on American citizens despite concerns over abuses
Image source: YouTube video, Forbes Breaking News - Screenshot

Biden administration begs to keep spying on American citizens despite concerns over abuses

Elements of the intelligence community implored the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so that the Biden administration can continue spying on American citizens' private communications.

Top officials from the FBI, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Department of Justice described 702 as "invaluable" and "indispensable," at times invoking the 9/11 Islamist attacks on the United States as lasting justification for far-reaching warrantless surveillance, even though thousands and possibly even millions of Americans may have been caught up in the resulting dragnet.

Deputy directors George Barnes of the NSA, David Cohen of the CIA, and Paul Abbate of the FBI issued a joint statement along with Chris Fonzone, general counsel with the ODNI, and Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for the DOJ's National Security Division, claiming 702 "helps protect Americans" every day, sparing them from "terrorist plots, weapons of mass destruction, malicious cyber activity, and hostile state behavior from China and Russia."

The intel officials suggested 702 is not only "an elegant solution to an operational challenge created by the advent of the Internet" but a "cornerstone of our Intelligence Community's efforts to identify and understand a broad range of challenges our country faces in an increasingly complex and dangerous world."

They further indicated that 246,073 targets were authorized for "collection" under 702 last year alone.

Section 702 is a provision of FISA enacted by Congress in 2008 that enables the government to spy on foreign nationals located outside the United States with the coerced aid of electronic communication service providers.

According to the ODNI, Section 702 was necessary because by the mid-2000s, "many terrorists and other foreign adversaries were using email accounts serviced by U.S. companies. Because of this change in communications technology, the government had to seek individual court orders, based on a finding of probably cause, to obtain the communications of non-U.S. persons located abroad."

Going through the courts "proved costly because of the resources required and because the government couldn't always meet the probable cause standard, which was designed to protect U.S. persons and persons in the U.S."

While allegedly intended to zero in on foreign nationals abroad "who are expected to possess, receive, or communicate foreign intelligence information," the FBI acknowledges that those targeted "may send an email or have a phone call with a U.S. person."

Accordingly, under Section 702, Americans can be subject to warrantless surveillance and have their phone calls, text messages, emails, and other communications both tapped and stored as a consequence of 702.

The New York Times reported that the data belonging to Americans spied on without a warrant is generally stored by the government for five years and can be searched by analysts at the aforementioned agencies by using Americans' identifiers, such as names, Social Security numbers, passport numbers, and email addresses, as query terms.

Critics of 702 suggest that these queries provide the state with the ability to circumnavigate the Fourth Amendment's requirement that the government first acquire a warrant before violating citizens' privacy.

The Times noted that an audit released in December revealed a number of instances in which "F.B.I. analysts queried the Section 702 repository using Americans' identifiers for unapproved reasons, such as vetting potential informants or maintenance workers."

During Tuesday's hearing, the FBI admitted there had been 278,000 "unintentional" back-door search queries of the 702 database for the private communications of Americans between 2020 and 2021 alone.

According to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, various Jan. 6 protesters, 19,000 donors to a Congressional campaign, and BLM protesters were among those subjected to the warrantless searches, reported the Register.

Despite the widespread and routine abuse of 702, Abbate maintained it was still worth preserving.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), on the committee, later noted, "FBI’s tone on FISA was shockingly defiant and at times indignant at today’s hearing. That’s really something for an agency that has admitted to 278,000 'accidental' warrantless searches of American citizens."

The Utah senator stressed that Americans' constitutional rights were being violated and the intelligence agencies' track record of abuse left little hope that their proposed reforms would make a difference, even if executed in the first place.

Lee later tweeted, "Democrats and Republicans agree that FBI can’t be trusted to wield its FISA authority responsibly. It’s time to clip FBI’s wings. I’m working on bipartisan FISA reforms to protect Americans from warrantless 'backdoor' FISA searches.'"

"The FBI has, right now, an unlimited hubris that you believe you are unaccountable," committee member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said during the hearing. "You don’t believe you’re accountable to the United States Congress, and you don’t believe you’re accountable to the American people, and you are doing damage."

While Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) admitted 702 "has been abused," he suggested that Congress "reauthorize this program and build in some safeguards," reported the Register.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "I will only support the reauthorization of Section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act if there are significant reforms. ... And that means first and foremost, addressing the warrantless surveillance of Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment."

Top FBI, DOJ Officials Grilled About Biden Whistleblower, FISA Abuse In Senate Judiciary Committeeyoutu.be

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?