Two House Republicans are demanding answers from FBI Director Christopher Wray in the wake of the nation’s secretive FISA surveillance court, citing “widespread violations” by the FBI in monitoring American citizens.
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Andy Biggs of Arizona wrote to Wray to explain “the FBI’s illegal spying activities” after a ruling made by James Boasberg, the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, last November.
It was declassified last week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Fox News reported.
The two GOP congressmen said the ruling from the court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act revealed the FBI “has been seriously and systematically abusing its warrantless electronic surveillance authority.”
The ruling said the FBI violated the privacy rights of Americans in conducting surveillance under FISA’s section 702, which allows the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence to authorize warrantless monitoring of non-US citizens believed to be outside the US borders within limits.
Republicans have long criticized FISA for allowing a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page as part of the Russian collusion investigation.
And last year, Wray called the actions to get a FISA warrant against Page “unacceptable.”
Boasberg’s ruling did not pertain to Page.
The section 702 also requires that limitations on “targeting procedures” be set on monitoring foreign actors to prevent the “intentional acquisition” of US domestic communications, Fox News reported
It goes on to require the use of querying procedures and a warrant to review results in criminal investigations not involving national security.
The judge’s ruling said the FBI “violated the querying standard and the court “and determined 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 government has reported numerous incidents regarding searches of section 702 FISA information without first obtaining court permissionm,” Boasberg’s ruling said.
It said an audit discovered 40 queries by the FBI in which it access information involving “healthcare fraud, transnational organized crime, violent gangs, domestic terrorism involving racially motivated violent extremists, as well as investigations relating to public corruption and bribery.”
None of them had to do with foreign surveillance.
Jordan and Biggs said the ruling is “particularly disturbing in light of prior FBI misconduct” detailed by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in his 2019 report, which revealed a pattern of “abuses and deficiencies in the FBI’s FISA process.”
His report said the FISA warrant process was abused regarding Page.
“Similarly, in March 2020, the OIG warned you of extensive noncompliance with Woods Procedures, which act as a safeguard and are designed to minimize factual inaccuracies in FISA applications by maintaining supporting documentation for each factual assertion in the application,” Jordan and Biggs wrote.
“The OIG alerted you to unsupported, uncorroborated, or inconsistent information in the Woods Files of all 25 surveillance applications on U.S. Persons that the OIG examined,” the two said.
The November 2020 ruling “only raises more questions about the FBI’s respect for the constitutional and statutory parameters of FISA.”
They want the FBI to answer why the FBI was “still” “abusing” FISA, a detailed listing of all queries accessed since December 2019, and explain what actions the FBI director is taking to address the concerns in the ruling to “prevent the FBI from using its section 702 authorities to surveil, investigate, or otherwise examine U.S. citizens.”
A senior FBI official told Fox News the agency has taken “numerous steps to facilitate compliance with the 702 query procedures,” including implementing additional documentation requirements to ensure personnel “have thought about the querying standard and articulate why they think it has been met,” while also modifying “multiple systems to better help personnel meet those legal requirements.”
The person said the FBI then “developed new guidance and training on those requirements and deployed the training to all FBI personnel with access to unminimized Section 702 information.”
Those who did not complete the training will not be allowed to access the information.
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