Rep. Andy Biggs told FBI leadership that he and his colleagues are reconsidering their support of the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, based on findings from a report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Arizona Republican sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Tuesday regarding the agency’s use of “backdoor searches” to access FISA data to get information relating to U.S. citizens.
Known as the 24th Joint Assessment of FISA, the DNI report was released in December 2021, and included information on FBI personnel who searched the data of an unnamed lawmaker and local political organizations.
The FBI acknowledged to The Washington Times that it had received the letter but declined to comment further.
The report states, “In one query incident, FBI queried the names of a local political party to determine if the party had connections to foreign intelligence. This query was not reasonably likely to retrieve foreign intelligence information.”
In a footnote, the report says, “An [Intelligence Analyst] conducted approximately [redacted number of] queries in [redacted]using only the name of a U.S. congressman.”
The DNI and the Justice Department released this assessment months before the DNI released its Annual Statistical Transparency Report, which revealed the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million warrantless searches of data in the U.S. in 2021.
Section 702 of FISA authorizes the government to intercept electronic communications of non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States. But this information includes data related to American citizens, and reports reveal that specific information is often inappropriately and unconstitutionally mined and used by federal intelligence agencies.
The FISA court came under scrutiny when Trump-era National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned from his White House job and Richard Grenell, then-acting director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declassified a list of almost 40 officials in former President Barack Obama’s administration who had wanted to unmask Mr. Flynn’s identity.
Federal investigators were able to monitor Mr. Flynn through his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador.
“The FBI‘s rogue surveillance behavior should alarm all Americans,” Mr. Biggs said. “The FISA spying authority is dedicated to protecting Americans—not harming them.”
“The latest report on the FBI‘s alleged FISA abuse reveals that the agency is directly violating the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—protections that prohibit warrantless surveillance on Americans by an overreaching government. That’s unacceptable and cannot continue,” he said.
Mr. Biggs asked Mr. Wray to respond to several questions about the report including if the U.S. congressman mentioned in the report was made aware of the search of their name in the 702 database, and whether any steps were taken to discipline the intelligence analyst responsible for the query.
The Arizona Republican also asked if authorities took steps to discipline the FBI agent who queried the names of a “local political party.”
In addition, Mr. Biggs requested information on whether lawmakers, congressional staff, political party officials, campaign personnel and candidates over the last five years were ever queried in the 702 database.
Mr. Biggs indicated that he and his colleagues are “currently weighing” whether the FISA 702 authorities should be reauthorized beyond the Dec. 31, 2023 deadline. He said without “prompt responses” from Mr. Wray by March 3 they cannot proceed with that process.
The Washington Times reached out to the FBI for comment but did not hear back.
• Kerry Picket can be reached at email@example.com.
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