16th District Congressman Darin LaHood says the FBI searched an intelligence database for his name multiple times in what he calls an “egregious” violation of his privacy.
LaHood confronted FBI Director Christopher Wray about the alleged incidents, which he said occurred about three years ago, during an annual House Intelligence Committee hearing on national security threats yesterday on Capitol Hill. LaHood cited a declassified U.S. government report that covers activity between December 2019 to May 2020, that found that “misunderstandings regarding FBI’s systems” and search requirements “continued to cause a large number of query errors.” According to the Associated Press, LaHood did not say why the FBI may have searched his name in information collected under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as Section 702, and the AP says a spokesperson for LaHood did not respond to a request for further clarification.
LaHood has joined several Republican and some Democrat colleagues who have concerns about the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, specifically a portion of the law known as Section 702. Section 702 allows the U.S. to collect foreign communications without a warrant and query the data for a variety of reasons, from countering China to stopping terrorism and cyber attacks. The intelligence agencies end up incidentally collecting large amounts of emails and communications from U.S. citizens. They can access U.S. citizen data under strict rules for law enforcement and intelligence purposes, but the agencies have publicly acknowledged violating those rules in some circumstances.
The White House and U.S. intelligence officials are pressing Congress to renew Section 702, which expires at this year’s end. Republicans say that the FBI has used the section to surveil allies of former President Donald Trump while Democrats say here are insufficient protections of civil liberties in the section.
LaHood says he’s leading the charge to reform and revise Section 702: “There are far too many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that question whether the executive branch can be trusted with this powerful tool. And that’s because in the past and currently, there’s been abuses and misuses of 702 by the FBI.” LaHood says he wants to ensure there are reforms and safeguards built in to a revision of Section 702 before it is possibly renewed.
The FBI has released a statement, obtained by CNN, on the allegations levied by LaHood and others saying they have made extensive changes on the way FISA warrants are used over the past few years. One of the changes that’s been made, according to the statement, is the FBI’s Deputy Director must give approval for queries involving elected officials. The FBI says they also have created an internal auditing office that focuses on FISA compliance and “instituting new policies requiring enhanced pre-approval requirements before certain ‘sensitive’ US person queries can be run,” according to the FBI statement.
The full exchange between LaHood and Wray can be found at this link.