Rampant FISA Abuse Revealed after Congressional Renewal


(Ken Silva, Headline USA) Now they tell us.

After Congress renewed earlier this month the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—which allows for the warrantless collection of Americans’ communications—the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report this week showing the rampant abuse of FISA.

According to the ODNI report, Section 702 was used to query the communications of U.S. persons 57,094 times between December 2022 and November 2023.

That number is a decrease from the 199,383 U.S. person queries from December 2021 to November 2022. The number a year before that — 2,964,643 — was significantly higher, with the FBI blaming an investigation involving attempted cyber intrusions of critical infrastructure during which analysts ran about 1.9 million queries related to potential victims.

The ODNI report identifies multiple possible reasons for the reduction over the last year, including a requirement that the FBI enter a justification for a database query about an American before conducting it and tighter approval mandates for searches that are deemed especially sensitive.

While the number of U.S. person queries declined, the number of times an American was “unmasked” increased by some 20,000 from 2022 to 2023. Intelligence reports generated from FISA are supposed to protect the identities of U.S. persons, but can “unmask” those people if it’s necessary for understanding the intelligence. According to the ODNI report, 13,036 U.S. persons were unmasked in 2021, 11,511 were unmasked in 2022 and 31,330 were unmasked last year.

The ODNI report attributed the spike in unmasking to a “single report containing

a large number of U.S. person identities that a foreign intelligence target was seeking to victimize.”

“The identities in this single report in CY2023 were not those of individual people, but of U.S. entities associated with critical infrastructure,” the report said. “The approved unmaskings related to attempts by foreign cyber actors to compromise U.S. critical infrastructure and account for the increase in unmaskings by NSA.”

The release of the annual report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence comes more than a week after a bitterly divided Congress voted to reauthorize a surveillance program that administration officials say is crucial for national security but that civil liberties advocates say results in privacy abuses of Americans. Civil libertarians tried to implement warrant requirements, but were defeated.

Section 702 permits the U.S. government to collect without a warrant the communications of targeted foreigners located in other countries — including when those subjects are in contact with Americans or other people inside the U.S.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.


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