FISC ASSURANCES ON SPYING LEAVE TOO MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


FISC ASSURANCES ON SPYING LEAVE TOO MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray faced questions from the House Judiciary Committee about how his department is implementing one of the government’s most powerful surveillance tools. Despite repeated bipartisan requests, Director Wray refused to tell the Members of the Committee how many Americans have been impacted by Section 702, enacted as part of the FISA Amendments Act. This isn’t the first time the FBI has refused to answer to Congress.

EFF has long held that Section 702 is being used to violate the privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Section 702 authorizes the acquisition of foreign intelligence information; however, because many Americans communicate with foreign persons outside the United States every day, our communications are also being captured and read without a warrant.

The FBI has also refused to estimate how often it warrantlessly queries databases containing incidentally collected communications using Americans’ identifiers as search terms, a practice known as “backdoor search.” Rep. Poe pressed Director Wray on backdoor searches as well, giving him an ultimatum: “I hope you can provide us that information before we reauthorize FISA, otherwise I'm going to vote against FISA.”

But Wray still didn’t answer these questions. Instead, he claimed that “every court” to have heard arguments against how the government uses Section 702 has found “no abuse” and concluded that it’s being done “consistent with the Fourth Amendment.”

Director Wray is wrong. In 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the use of Section 702 in United States v. Mohamud, but the court specifically said that its decision did not “involve the retention and querying of incidentally collected communications,” i.e. backdoor searches. And when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR) upheld warrantless acquisition of foreigners’ communications under an earlier law, it did so because it believed the government would “not maintain a database of incidentally collected information from non-targeted United States persons” that it could search without a warrant.

Webmaster's Commentary: 

When the head of the FBI lies to Congress about the 2016 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the United States v. Mohamud case regarding backdoor searches, you have to know something stinks to high heaven here.

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