FBI Improperly Searched for Names of 2 Lawmakers Using Wiretap Program

By Steve Neavling

An FBI analyst improperly searched for the names of two lawmakers, including a U.S. senator, using a warrantless surveillance program that is set to expire and needs the approval of Congress to continue. 

A newly declassified court ruling reveals that an analyst in June 2022 searched the names of the legislators, which also included a state lawmaker, because of information that suggested they were targets of a foreign intelligence service, The New York Times reports

While the court ruled that the analyst had a legitimate reason for searching for the information, the query was too broad.

The FBI uses the warrantless surveillance to stop overseas hackers, spy services and terrorists. 

The law that legalized the program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is set to expire, and Republicans who championed it are now pledging to allow it to expire in December

Democrats have also expressed concern that Section 702 could violate Americans’ civil liberties. 

Despite the improper search, “there is reason to believe that the FBI has been doing a better job” abiding by the rules for using warrantless surveillance, Judge Rudolph Contreras, the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, said. 

“Despite the reported errors, there is reason to believe that the F.B.I. has been doing a better job in applying the querying standard,” he wrote. “In some cases, F.B.I. personnel apparently misapplied the querying standard to a group of similarly situated persons, but those violations do not approach the scale of a number of prior ones.”

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