FISA Court Reveals FBI Used Warrantless NSA Data For Health Care Fraud, Bribery and Other Criminal Cases
On Monday afternoon, the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), Judge James E. Boasberg, revealed new instances of warrantless use of National Security Agency data by the FBI, including the improper search of information about Americans in emails.
The government is allowed under Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act to access phone calls and internet communications of noncitizens abroad with an American. The FBI can use this raw intelligence without a warrant, but only for national security investigations.
Judge Boasberg’s report shows that while the FBI properly used some of this warrantless surveillance information to identify potential domestic terrorists, it ran over 40 improper queries for run-of-the-mill criminal investigations relating to health-care fraud, bribery, and other crimes by citizens posing no threat to national security and fully protected by the Fourth Amendment.
“It has proven almost impossible for the FBI to resist the temptation to use powerful technology to gather warrantless evidence in purely criminal matters, not national security,” said Gene Schaerr, PPSA general counsel.
In September, the judge revealed that an FBI field office used 124 improper queries of warrantless surveillance information, including background checks on community leaders in a law enforcement-sponsored “Citizens Academy,” and people providing office repairs.
As with last year’s revelations, the most recent batch of warrantless queries happened before the FBI pledged to do better with improvements in training and procedural safeguards. While issuing the report, Judge Boasberg approved the NSA program for another year. He ruled that “the FBI’s querying and minimization procedures meet statutory and Fourth Amendment requirements.”
“It’s an open question whether the FBI has been caught red handed or flat footed,” Schaerr said. “The FISC must keep close tabs on this program over the next year. Congress should consider adding statutory sanctions for using warrantless surveillance for ordinary, domestic law enforcement.”