FISA Court Docs: How the FBI Continues to Spy on Americans Without a Warrant and Get Away With It


The latest FISA compliance review, written by FISA Court Presiding Judge James Boasberg in November 2020 and declassified on 26 April 2021, indicates that the bureau has on multiple occasions used the NSA’s massive electronic troves for warrantless searches of US citizens’ information, despite having been censured by the court for these activities.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) establishes specific procedures for surveillance and the collection of communications between “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers” suspected of espionage or terrorism.

While permitted to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside of the US, FISA Section 702 obligates the federal agencies to comply with the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches of US citizens. To start spying, federal agents must first obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

The NSA, for its part, “may not task a selector” without first determining that the target is expected to “possess, receive, or/and likely communicate foreign intelligence information” relevant to the subject matter of an authorised Section 702 certification.

However, some US federal agents ignore these formalities by resorting to so-called “backdoor” searches. And, according to the FISA court, the “FBI’s failure to properly apply its querying standard when searching Section 702-acquired information” is even “more pervasive than was…

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