FBI violated privacy of millions of Americans last year: WSJ
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was found to have violated the constitutional privacy rights of US Americans by conducting millions of searches on their data.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) performed last year potentially millions of searches of US electronic data without a warrant, US intelligence officials said Friday.
This would constitute a violation of the privacy of US citizens and likely fan the flames of concerns over government surveillance and the privacy of citizens.
The findings were published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in an annual report that disclosed that the FBI conducted some 3.4 million searches of US data that had been previously collected by the National Security Agency.
It could not be tallied how many Americans' data was examined by the FBI under the program, though officials claimed that the number was "almost certainly" much smaller.
Washington disclosing these searches marks the first time a US intelligence agency has published a tally of the FBI's searching of American data using a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The 3.4 million figure "is certainly a large number," a senior FBI official said in a press briefing Friday on the report. "I am not going to pretend that it isn't."
The Russians had something to do with it, obviously
The FBI, following in the same footsteps of the privacy violations that followed the 9/11 attacks - section 702 of FISA - had to cast the blame on someone when these figures were disclosed, and this time, it was "Russian hackers" that posed the "national security threat."
The FBI had previously been under fire for the means by which authorities utilized Section 702 data. That backlash included a rebuke from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2018 after the body found that searches conducted by the US agency violated the privacy rights of Americans sponsored by the constitution.
More than half of the reported searches, senior US officials claimed, were related to an investigation into a national security threat that involved alleged attempts by "Russian hackers" to hack critical US infrastructure. Those same officials boldly claimed that the searches included efforts to identify and protect potential victims of the alleged Russian cyberwarfare campaign.
They declined to give more details on the "Russian threat", as the US has done before when putting up a facade, including whether the campaign was related to Moscow itself or illegal hacking groups, though the Russian government has repeatedly denied being behind such attacks on the United States.
The information searched included but was not limited to citizens' names, phone numbers, email addresses, and social security numbers. The privacy violated is that of US citizens, lawful permanent residents on US soil, and US companies, and it can also contain metadata and content of private communications.
The FBI conducted approximately 3.39 million searches using the identity of a presumed US person from Dec. 1, 2020, to Nov. 30, 2021, according to the report. The number of searches for the previous 12-month period was about 1.3 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The report also revealed four instances last year which saw the FBI undermining the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by not seeking its approval before performing a search and looking at the content of US communications that were produced.