- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2015

A government watchdog is ringing the alarm bells over the FBI’s “greatly expanded” use of the investigative authority granted to it by the Patriot Act, which the law-enforcement agency has used to obtain bulk information about people who have no ties to an official investigation.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz has declared in a 77-page report that the FBI is increasingly taken advantage of Section 215, a section of the Patriot Act that allows the bureau and other government agencies to secretly seek and obtain the personal information of a large number of people, regardless of whether they are or are not involved in criminal activity.

“The report notes that the scope of business records sought under Section 215 greatly expanded in response to legislative changes, technological advances, and strategic choices, and that Section 215 orders have been used in investigations of groups comprised of unknown members and to obtain information in bulk concerning persons who are not the subjects of or associated with any FBI investigation,” an executive summary of the report said.

Between 2007 and 2009, the Department of Justice submitted 51 Section 215 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on behalf of the FBI and all of those applications were approved by the court, according to the statement.

Government watchdog officials alarmed by increase in Section 215 applications say that “continued and significant oversight by appropriate entities” are required as the bureau moves forward with its bulk collection requests.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a presidential candidate, spent more than 10 hours on Wednesday trying to filibuster and derail an extension of the Patriot Act. Senators are in the process of considering whether to reauthorize or reform the Patriot Act after the House overwhelmingly approved to revise the controversial authorities last week.

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