- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2023

A Republican member of the House intelligence committee said Thursday that he believes the FBI improperly searched his name in a sensitive foreign surveillance database.

Rep. Darin LaHood of Illinois raised the matter during a panel hearing with top intelligence officials, citing a declassified report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that detailed abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The 2021 report noted that the FBI abused Section 702 of FISA, which permits warrantless surveillance of foreign persons outside of the U.S., by inappropriately searching for the names of a local political party and an unnamed member of Congress to determine if they had ties to foreign intelligence.

The report also included an assessment by the National Division of the Department of Justice and the DNI that those FBI searches were overly broad and violated rules governing the sensitive intelligence collection.

“The FBI’s querying of a duly elected member of Congress is egregious and a violation that not only degrades the trust in FISA but is viewed as a threat to the separation of powers,” Mr. LaHood said. “I have had the opportunity to review the classified summary of this violation, and it is my opinion that the member of Congress that was wrongfully queried multiple times solely by his name was in fact me.”

The law governing foreign intelligence surveillance, last reauthorized by Congress in 2018, is set to expire in December. Intelligence officials have faced growing skepticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who fear FISA opens the door to government overreach.

The FBI, in particular, has come under increasing scrutiny by Republicans who accuse the agency of overstepping its bounds to target conservatives.

“The FBI does have a significant trust issue with members of Congress,” Mr. LaHood said Thursday. “I would say that trust has only been made worse by the recently declassified section 702 compliance report.”

He added that his being targeted as part of unlawful data queries gives him “a unique perspective on what’s wrong with the FBI.”

Committee Chairman Michael Turner, Ohio Republican, said Mr. LaHood “personifies the fears and mistrust many in America have about the FBI’s leadership.”

“They have permitted consistent abuse of a program that was supposed to protect Americans from foreign threats,” Mr. Turner said. “This must change.”

Mr. Turner also announced that he is launching a working group led by Mr. LaHood to “reform FISA and confront the abuses.”

“Too many Americans are worried it could be them,” he said. “We are thankful for Darin LaHood’s honesty and leadership. Our committee will seek to find a bipartisan solution to reform the FBI’s abuse of our foreign surveillance tools.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the panel that he understood Mr. LaHood’s frustrations stemming from the Section 702 violations outlined in the 2021 report, though he did not confirm or deny the congressman’s suspicion that he was the unnamed lawmaker in the report.

He added that the since the report was issued, the FBI has enacted a series of reforms to prevent future violations, and pledged to work with the committee to ensure the appropriate checks are in place to mitigate any concerns among lawmakers about reauthorizing the provision.

“My hope is that we will be able to show by working with the working group how these reforms will prevent stuff like what you described from happening again in the future,” he said.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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