REPS LIEU AND SPARTZ CALL FOR BRIEFING FROM FBI ON FISA DATA MISUSE

May 13, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – This week, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-IN) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray expressing concerns over how the FBI collected data under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.

In the letter, the Members write:

Dear Director Wray:

          We write with concern about a recent Washington Post report that details chronic misuse of data collected under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FISA) by the FBI. According to redacted filings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the FBI has been systematically querying 702 data without a warrant for not only domestic criminal investigations – in violation of the law – but also for completely unrelated background investigations. While we understand that accidental inappropriate queries are inevitable, the consistency with which similar stories have been reported and the scale of alleged misuse cannot lead to a conclusion other than a chronic failure to address a systemic problem. We request that you come up with a plan to stop this problem from occurring in the future. We also request a briefing from your office to discuss the FBI’s apparent inability to solve 702 data misuse through minimization procedures and staff training. This is a problem with grave constitutional implications, and we must work to resolve it.
          As you know, there has long been bipartisan concern about investigators using Section 702 for matters unrelated to national security, and Congress made it harder for the FBI to conduct such queries without a warrant in 2017. The Washington Post details numerous incidents involving queries of Americans’ information for various purposes, including for criminal evidence, without a warrant. In one instance, the FBI, against the advice of its General Counsel, queried 702 data by searching for more than 70,000 email addresses. The FBI also made 124 queries of 702 data for background investigations for the FBI’s “Citizens Academy,” a program the FBI launched to improve community outreach and understanding of the FBI’s mission.

          These apparently unconstitutional queries undermine the public’s confidence in law enforcement and in our intelligence community. They also directly contradict Congress’ intent in placing guardrails around the ways in which raw 702 data can be used. We look forward to working with your office to resolve any relevant technical and systemic problems that give rise to this pattern of misuse. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,