Secret Court Could Be Stripped Of Some Power

The recent reports of the FBI’s misuse of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) have left its future uncertain, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Biden administration is facing resistance in Congress to the reauthorization of Section 702 after it was reported that the FBI misused it to track possible suspects in the January 6 riot at the Capitol and monitor the donors of a congressional candidate.

The Washington Post reported last week that the FBI misused Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act over 278,000 times between 2020 and 2021 to monitor suspects involved in the January 6 riot and those arrested during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Additionally, the FBI monitored 19,000 donors to one congressional candidate’s campaign.

In an April 2022 opinion that was unsealed last Friday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees Section 702, informed the FBI that if the bureau does not address the abuses, the FISA court will crack down and order changes to the FBI’s practices itself.

The Section 702 digital database consists of a massive trove of electronic communications that can be searched by the FBI and the National Security Agency. The FBI is only authorized to search the database if agents have reason to believe that the search will produce evidence of crimes or relevant information for foreign intelligence purposes.

The current authorization for Section 702 expires on December 31, and calls for reform are coming from Republican and Democrat lawmakers alike.

Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL), who earlier this year revealed in an Intelligence Committee hearing that he was unlawfully queried by the FBI, told the Wall Street Journal that the FBI’s abuses make it clear that Section 702 must be reformed “to better protect the civil liberties of Americans.”

Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York told the Journal that he would oppose reauthorizing Section 702 unless “significant changes” are made to “prevent this abuse.”