The Same FBI That Wants To Destroy Encryption Is Still Illegally Snooping on Americans

As late as last year, agents at the FBI were still violating the privacy rights of American citizens through misuse of federal surveillance tools, a ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has revealed.

The ruling is from October 2018 but was only declassified and disclosed this week, albeit in a heavily redacted format. In the process of analyzing and reauthorizing the FBI’s ability to engage in warrantless domestic surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISC Judge James Boasberg determined that on multiple occasions, FBI personnel were not properly restricting their searches and thereby violated the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.

The misuse of Section 702 surveillance authorities was widely exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who alerted Americans and the world that our government was collecting and storing massive amounts of private data about millions of people without warrants or probable cause, violating everybody’s privacy in the name of allegedly tracking down terrorism.

Eventually, Congress passed reforms requiring the FBI to be more specific about its use of search terms in order to look through and access phone and internet data collected domestically. They had to make sure they were confining their snooping for evidence of criminal activity or information about targets of foreign surveillance. They were no longer supposed to collect and hold massive amounts of U.S. citizen metadata and engage in fishing expeditions among millions and millions of call and internet records, looking for matches on vague terms. They were now expected to request data being held by telecoms under more specific language, all intended to make sure they were not accessing data that was unrelated to any crime or terrorism investigation.

But according to Boasberg’s ruling, FBI employees on multiple occasions did not properly follow the rules and were able to query and access data that they aren’t allowed to see. They were able to do this because the data querying process did not require FBI personnel to prove that the search terms they used were intended to seek information connected to a crime of foreign intelligence information. As a result,

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