Declassified judicial documents showed that the FBI viewed a database of personal contacts of Americans, as it searched for the names of crime victims and participants in the “Black Lives Matter” protests and the attack on the Capitol. On January 6, 2021.
The FBI accessed the database 278,000 times in recent years, often without justification, the Secret Foreign Oversight Intelligence Court concluded.
The FBI is supposed to use the NSA’s database – which includes personal emails, phone and other communications – only when investigating a foreign intelligence case, as court opinions have shown it has been used more often in domestic cases.
The FBI conducted random searches during local drug and gang investigations, the 2020 protests over the killing of African-American George Floyd, and the attack by Donald Trump supporters on the US Capitol.
In one case, an agent conducted a database search of 19,000 congressional campaign donors.
In all of those cases, the intelligence court said, no foreign intelligence or domestic crime justified the FBI’s access to the database.
The documents were revealed as Congress debates renewing Section 702, a law that allows the National Security Agency to access online accounts in the United States to monitor foreign intelligence targets.
On the other hand, a number of lawmakers say that the renewal of the law needs to be reviewed to improve the protection of personal information for Americans.
Senator Ron Wyden – a longtime critic of Section 702 – said the intelligence court documents show “appalling violations” of the law, adding that if Section 702 is reinstated, “there must be legal reforms to ensure there are checks and balances to put an end to these violations.” .
US intelligence agencies worry that this will hinder their activities.
It is noteworthy that the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency are prohibited from spying on Americans or foreigners inside the United States, so Congress passed in 2008 Article 702 to allow the National Security Agency access to accounts on the Internet in the United States.