On Friday, the ACLU fired a full salvo at the FBI after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released two court opinions that detail blatant violations of Americans’ privacy, including a sitting state court judge. The opinions come from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and describe how the entire national intelligence community, not just the FBI, performed numerous violations of legal requirements and court-ordered rules intended to protect Americans’ privacy.
The FISC writes that the FBI repeatedly engaged in prohibited searches of Section 702 databases for information pertaining to unsuspected targets. The opinions also demonstrate the evolving uses of Section 702: the NSA is reportedly using its Section 702 powers “to conduct routine, suspicionless searches of people overseas who are applying for immigration benefits or seeking to travel to the United States.” The FISC notes the unprecedented nature of this kind of use for Section 702. The data of millions of Americans who are in contact with people seeking to come to the United States will surely be swept up by this new trend.
Patrick Toomey, former U.S. Senator and Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said that “These disturbing new revelations show how Section 702 surveillance, a spy program the government claims is focused on foreign adversaries, is routinely used against Americans, immigrants, and people who are not accused of any wrongdoing.”
PPSA is astonished by the revelations disclosed by these two FISC opinions. The latitude for abuse of surveillance powers has only grown. Meanwhile, more and more Americans are being caught in the crossfire. Congress must act now to secure the privacy rights of Americans everywhere.