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'FBI violated American citizens' 4A rights 278,000 times': Bureau blasted over attempt to put gloss on Section 702
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'FBI violated American citizens' 4A rights 278,000 times': Bureau blasted over attempt to put gloss on Section 702

The FBI is attempting to rehabilitate the public image of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as Congress has until April 19 to reauthorize it. The bureau recently posted a video to X that features FBI Director Christopher Wray attempting to put a gloss on Section 702 as part of this monthslong campaign.

The bureau's timely propaganda did not escape the attention of critics on X, where the post received a community note that read, "The FBI violated American citizens' 4A rights 278,000 times with illegal, unauthorized FISA 702 searches."

Among the critics was Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who wrote, "FBI just got called out in a community note on X. Congress — take note. FISA 702 has been used for warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of times. Yet FBI demands 702 be reauthorized by April 19 WITHOUT a warrant requirement for searches of U.S. citizens."

"Many in Congress will want to reauthorize FISA 702 — which is set to expire April 19th — either without modification or (more likely) with fake reforms that fail to impose a warrant requirement for searches directed at Americans," added the senator.

What is Section 702?

Section 702 is a provision of FISA enacted by Congress in 2008 that enables the state to spy on foreign nationals located outside the U.S. with the compelled aid of electronic communication service providers.

This was the law exploited by the FBI to spy on members of the Trump campaign in 2016 without probable cause.

According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Congress enacted Section 702 in order to "address a collection gap that resulted from the evolution of technology in the years after FISA was passed in 1978."

"Many terrorists and other foreign adversaries were using email accounts serviced by U.S. companies," claimed the ODNI. "Because of this change in communications technology, the government had to seek individual court orders, based on a finding of probable cause, to obtain the communications of non-U.S. persons located abroad."

Supposedly, going through the courts proved too 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."

Warrantless spying on Americans

While 702 targets must be foreign nationals believed to be outside the U.S., the FBI readily admits that "such targets may send an email or have a phone call with a U.S. person."

As a consequence, multitudes of American citizens have been subjected to warrantless surveillance and have had their phone calls, text messages, emails, and other communications tapped and stored.

Blaze News previously reported that during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June 2023, the FBI admitted there had been at least 278,000 "unintentional" back-door search queries of the 702 database for the private communications of Americans between 2020 and 2021 alone.

Among those Americans caught up in the warrantless searches were Jan. 6 protesters, 19,000 donors to a congressional campaign, and BLM protesters.

The Hill reported that long after the FBI ran numerous searches of people suspected of partaking in the Jan. 6 protests, the Department of Justice concluded the bureau had not met the standard required for such a search.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate at the June 2023 hearing, "Your institution is the one that, according to the court, the FISA court, ran 278,000 unwarranted — probably illegal — queries on Americans, right? That was your institution, correct?"

Abbate responded, "With respect to the compliance incident, yes."


Wray sang praises to Section 702 when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in December and did so again before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on March 11.

In his March 11 testimony, Wray stated, "The FISA Court itself most recently found 98% compliance and commented on the reforms working. The most recent Justice Department report found the reforms working, 99% compliance. And so, I think legislation that ensures those reforms stay in place but also preserves the agility and the utility of the tools, what we need to be able to protect the American people."

The FBI's March 25 social post containing an excerpt from Wray's testimony was not well-received.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) wrote, "The FBI was correctly called out in a community note for lying about its unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance of Americans. Congress must eliminate FISA abuse and protect the American people's privacy."

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) tweeted, "The FBI has been corrected in community notes and rightfully so."

FBI whistlelower Steve Friend reiterated that the FBI "violated constitutional rights and abused FISA Section 702 over 278,000 times in a single year."

Sen. Lee emphasized that he and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D) have introduced a bill that would reauthorize 702 but in a fashion that would supposedly safeguard American privacy and liberties.

Their so-called Security and Freedom Enhancement Act would require intelligence agencies to obtain a FISA Title I order or a warrant prior to accessing the contents of Americans' communications collected under Section 702.

"While only foreigners overseas may be targeted, the program sweeps in massive amounts of Americans' communications, which may be searched without a warrant. Even after implementing compliance measures, the FBI still conducted more than 200,000 warrantless searches of Americans' communications in just one year — more than 500 warrantless searches per day," said Durbin.

Durbin figured this legislation would make reauthorizing Section 702 palatable.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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