FBI Wrongly Searched Surveillance Data For US Senator’s Name, Court Finds

 Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

FBI employees and agents inappropriately searched foreign surveillance data for the last names of a state senator and a U.S. senator, said a court opinion that was released Friday.

The newly disclosed finding is included in the release of a 117-page order (pdf) declassified on July 16 by the federal judiciary’s foreign intelligence surveillance court in April—a rare move as that court generally issues rulings in secret.

In the court document, issued by Judge Rudolph Contreras, an unnamed FBI analyst in June 2022 conducted four separate searches of information that was collected via the warrantless surveillance program under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) “using the last names of a U.S. Senator and a state senator.” Their names were not disclosed in the unsealed ruling.

It also showed the FBI analyst possessed information that showed the lawmakers were being targeted by a foreign intelligence operation. However, according to the court filing, the Justice Department’s national security division reviewed their searches and found they didn’t meet the FBI’s internal standards.

Another FBI employee improperly queried the Social Security number of a state judge who alleged civil rights violations by a municipal chief of police, according to the opinion of the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The judge’s Social Security number was accessed in October of last year, but the agency also found the analyst didn’t have enough evidence to be authorized to carry out the search.

In the case of the state judge, an FBI specialist searched a database using the Social Security number after the judge “had complained to FBI about alleged civil rights violations perpetrated by a municipal chief of police,” said the filing.

Other than names, the surveillance court opinion also did not disclose the states or party affiliations of the individuals whose names were searched by FBI staff. Few other details were provided, including that foreign entities were targeting the aforementioned officials.

The unnamed U.S. senator has been notified of the search. The state senator and state judge have not, an FBI official told news outlets.

Other Details

The total number of searches for Americans appears to have dropped, the filing said. Over a year-long period ending in March, the FBI ran about 180,000 searches of U.S. citizens and other American entities, the court said.

That’s well below the roughly 2 million searches reported just between December 2020 and February 2021, something the foreign surveillance judge wrote “should indicate less intrusion into the private communications of U.S. persons.”

But despite the FBI’s and Mr. Contreras’ assurances, the improper searches of the Section 702 surveillance collection program could imperil a push by the White House to have the tool reauthorized before it is scheduled to expire by the end of this year.

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