(USA Features) Republican lawmakers are demanding a response from FBI Director Christopher Wray following a newly declassified opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that revealed continued “widespread” violations by the bureau, Fox News reported Tuesday.
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Andy Biggs of Arizona said in a letter to Wray that they “write to request information about the FBI’s illegal spying activities” following the declassification of a November 2020 opinion by the court, which handles requests by intelligence agencies seeking Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) spy warrants, that said the FBI “has been seriously and systematically abusing its warrantless electronic surveillance authority.”
Throughout the Trump administration, Republicans were vocal about abuses of the FISA court that were ultimately revealed by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General in obtaining warrants for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Last year Wray called those actions “unacceptable” and vowed to Congress they “cannot be repeated.”
However, last week the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “declassified an opinion from the FISC … which Jordan and Biggs said revealed the FBI ‘has been seriously and systematically abusing its warrantless electronic surveillance authority,'” Fox News reported.
The November opinion provided details of the FBI’s “apparent widespread violations” of privacy rules in conducting surveillance under section 702 of the FISA.
“Section 702 authorizes the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence to jointly authorize warrantless surveillance of non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States, subject to limitations,” Fox News noted.
“The section requires the adoption of ‘targeting procedures’ to ensure that acquired information is limited to non-U.S. persons to prevent the ‘intentional acquisition’ of U.S. domestic communications, according to U.S. Code. The section also requires the use of minimization and querying procedures, specifically requiring that the government obtain a FISC order for any review of Section 702 query results in criminal investigations unrelated to national security,” the network continued.
However, the FISC opinion noted that the bureau “violated the querying standard” following a Justice Department audit of governmental compliance with Section 702. The court’s opinion noted that the “FBI’s failure to properly apply its querying standard when searching section 702-acquired information was more pervasive than was previously believed.”
The opinion further stated that “the government has reported numerous incidents regarding searches of section 702 FISA information without first obtaining court permission.”
The court also said that “none of these queries was related to national security and they returned numerous Section 702-acquired products in response.”
Judge James E. Boasberg, the FISC’s chief judge, wrote that the court is “concerned about the apparent widespread violations.”
In their letter, Biggs and Jordan said the revelations were “particularly disturbing in light of prior FBI misconduct” documented throughout the Trump administration, and requested that Wray provide them with information pertaining to the FISC’s opinion, including all circumstances where agents may have abused the court.
The lawmakers also demanded to know what specific steps Wray has taken to address the FISC’s concerns and to “prevent the FBI from using its section 702 authorities to surveil, investigate, or otherwise examine U.S. citizens.”