I’d say “Another day, another example of the FBI being completely out of control,” but these stories happen multiple times a day at this point so I guess it’s time to change the saying to “Another hour, another example of the FBI being completely out of control.”
According to a recently released court opinion, FBI officials illegally accessed a foreign intelligence database to search for information on a U.S. Senator, a state senator, and a state-level judge.
According to the opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, an analyst with the FBI conducted four searches of the intelligence database using the last names of a U.S. Senator and state senator in June of 2022 — both of whom were not named in the filing.
The analyst “had information that a specific foreign intelligence service was targeting” both legislators, but a review of the search by the Justice Department’s National Security Division determined that the search still didn’t meet the proper standards because they weren’t sufficiently tailored.
In a separate instance last October, an FBI specialist ran a search of the 702 database using the social security number of a state judge who “had complained to FBI about alleged civil rights violations perpetrated by a municipal chief of police,” the filing says, that also didn’t meet sufficient standards.
Here’s the actual court opinion where this abuse of the system is mentioned.
All of this ties into the infamous Section 702 program, which has previously enjoyed broad bipartisan support despite a seemingly endless list of abuses over the years. Perhaps some skepticism is finally building on Capitol Hill because the FBI claims to have recently changed its protocols. That it took so long for that to happen is a scandal in and of itself. A federal law enforcement agency should have the integrity to fix issues immediately, not let them simmer for two decades until a sufficient amount of public backlash builds.
In this case, we do not know who the U.S. Senator is who was spied on, though they have been notified. The state senator and the state-level judge are still in the dark and haven’t been made aware, per the report.
Astonishingly, FBI Dir. Christopher Wray actually used the news that his agency spied on a U.S. Senator to proclaim how much progress they’ve supposedly made. No, I’m not kidding.
“The 2023 FISC Opinion confirms the significant improvement in the FBI’s Section 702 querying compliance since the implementation of our substantial reforms,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement on the release of the FISC opinion. “We take seriously our role in protecting national security and we take just as seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of our Section 702 authorities.”
Section 702 needs to be thrown into the garbage, and the Republicans who continue to push it as a necessary tool simply can’t be trusted at this point. Continuing to emotionally blackmail Americans into having their rights violated by claiming grave national security risks is disgusting. If the government can’t ensure complete protection of privacy rights with the current system, it shouldn’t have the system at all.
Lastly, I don’t buy the FBI’s claims of better compliance nor do they sway my opinion. Why would anyone trust anything the bureau has to say at this point? And am I supposed to be impressed that fewer people are having their rights violated compared to the past?
I’ll say it again. The FBI appears largely unredeemable to me. It’s an agency that needs to be gutted all the way to the rank-and-file level. Swapping FBI directors isn’t going to fix this. Right now, everyone in the building believes they are a kingdom unto themselves. There’s no accountability, and it has led to a situation where the FBI does whatever it wants, and then when caught, simply shrugs its shoulders. That can’t be allowed to continue. There is no fourth branch of government, and these bureaucracies belong to the people, not the other way around.