OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The FBI isn’t doing itself any favors in staving off increasing calls, mostly from Republicans, to dramatically reform and even defund the agency, according to an unsealed filing in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
The filing states that the FBI improperly used warrantless searches on American citizens more than 278,000 times through November 2021, Fox News reported Friday.
“U.S. citizens covered in that improper effort included people involved in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021; George Floyd protesters during the summer of 2020; and donors to a failed congressional candidate, the filing said,” according to the outlet.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) grants the government the authority to carry out focused surveillance on individuals who are not U.S. citizens and are situated outside the United States.
The primary objective of the law is to regulate the manner in which appropriate government agencies gather foreign intelligence. In cases where U.S. citizens become subjects of interest during these investigations, the responsibility of questioning them for potential security purposes falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI.
This transfer of responsibility ensures that appropriate protocols are followed when handling inquiries involving U.S. citizens within the context of national security, Fox News noted.
The FISC unsealing took place on Friday, but the 127-page document was filed in April 2022, the outlet noted.
“As [FBI Director Christopher] Wray has made clear, the errors described in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s opinion are completely unacceptable,” a senior official at the FBI told Fox News on Friday. “As a result of the audits that revealed these instances of noncompliance, the FBI changed its querying procedures to make sure these errors do not happen again.”
“We are committed to continuing this work and providing greater transparency into the process to earn the trust of the American people and advance our mission of safeguarding both the nation’s security and privacy and civil liberties at the same time,” the senior FBI official added.
The filing that was unveiled on Friday detailed several of the improper searches, including a batch query for “over 19,000 donors to a congressional campaign.”
“The analyst who ran the query advised that the campaign was a target of foreign influence, but NSD [National Security Division] determined that only eight identifiers used in the query had sufficient ties to foreign influence activities to comply with the querying standard,” the filing stated.
The bureau came under renewed scrutiny after special counsel John Durham released his final report on Monday detailing the origins of the so-called “Russian collusion” investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
The report found that the FBI launched its counterintelligence probe without any legitimate evidence, relying mostly on a “dossier” assembled by former British spy Christopher Steele that was paid for, in large part, by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
In the wake of the damning report, calls to defund or reorganize the FBI have heightened.
“We don’t throw people in jail in Congress that’s probably for good reason. We have to de-fang and defund the authorities that have been weaponized against the people, we have to get the FBI out of Washington D.C.,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Fox News’ Will Cain on Thursday.
“We have seen how the FBI has targeted President Trump, how they’ve targeted anyone who believes in the 2nd Amendment, or build the wall, or for goodness sake, the Betsy Ross flag,” Gaetz said, adding that the bureau also allegedly retaliated against a number of FBI whistleblowers who came forth to Congress with information that certain Americans and groups were being improperly targeted.
“But now we see they go after their own, and they’re doing it to make an example of these people because they know that the corruption runs deep, and they’re deeply afraid that more people will come forward,” he said.