Biden Administration Seeks Court Approval to Extend FBI’s Controversial Surveillance Tool

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

The Biden administration is asking a court to renew one of the FBI’s most controversial surveillance tools, a move that would bypass congressional approval. 

Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) is set to expire in April after the U.S. House last year temporarily extended the bureau’s ability to conduct warrantless surveillance abroad. 

While members of Congress debate a measure by House Republicans that would reauthorize and reform FISA, federal investigators are worried about a “dangerous gap in collection” of intelligence, according to Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen, The Hill reports

“Section 702 of FISA is an indispensable national security tool, and we are committed to working closely with Congress to reauthorize it before it expires in April,” Olsen said.

Under the proposed new legislation, the number of FBI employees who could use the database would be severely limited.

The legislation stops short of requiring a warrant, but it does mandate that law enforcement obtain a warrant to search the database for evidence of a crime. 

The legislation also is intended to protect members of Congress and other high-profile officials. One provision would require the bureau to alert a member of Congress if they’ve been searched in the database. 

Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns that Section 702 would be used to gather information on Americans. 

Last year, the three-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, an independent agency within the executive branch, said the bureau and other government agencies should receive court approval to review communications of U.S. citizens collected through Section 702. 

The White House says the program is vital to disrupting foreign terror attacks, espionage operations, and cyberattacks.

But opposition has been mounting after recent revelations that FBI employees violated their own standards when they used the technology. 

Leave a Reply