Declassified FISA Opinion Shows More FBI Abuses

FISA Court opinion and order declassified today reveals continued FBI abuses of “raw FISA-acquired information.” After a DOJ National Security Division review, the FISA Court noted “the FBI’s failure to properly apply its querying standard when searching Section 702-acquired information was more pervasive than was previously believed.”

This opinion includes these findings:

April 2019 – July 2019: An FBI technical information specialist was involved in “Compliance incidents” by conducting 124 queries of Section 702-acquired information on (1) Volunteers who had requested to participate in the FBI’s “Citizens Academy”; (2) Persons who needed to enter the field office to perform repairs; and (3) Persons who reported they were victims of a crime.

August 2019 – October 2019: An FBI Task Force Office “conducted approximately 69 queries using names and identifiers of individuals…” The redactions keep secret the identity of the victims.


Other Violations:

  • One FBI intelligence analyst “conducted 110 queries for analytic paper.”

  • Another analyst conducted improper queries for “ongoing vetting of confidential human sources” as well as “overly broad queries” and “mistakenly failed to opt out of querying against raw FISA-acquired information.”

Judge James Boasberg, who presides over the FISA Court, found little issue with these abuses. In fact, Boasberg concluded:

“[T]he Court is willing to again conclude that the improper queries described above do not undermine its prior determination that, with implementation of the documentation requirement, the FBI’s querying and minimization procedures meet statutory and Fourth Amendment requirements.”

HOWEVER – Boasberg then concludes that the government has reported numerous incidents involving searches of FISA information without warrants.


In other words, the FBI is using FISA acquired information to investigate domestic crimes – not matters of foreign intelligence. These included investigations of “health-care fraud, transnational organized crime, violent gangs, domestic terrorism involving racially motivated violent extremists, as well as investigations relating to public corruption and bribery.”



Public corruption and bribery.” I highlight that last part because it means the FBI continued to improperly use FISA-acquired information to spy on government officials.


Judge Orders Erick Kaardal to Defend Against Disciplinary Referral

As we previously reported, Boasberg declined to sentence former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith to prison – not even a day – after Clinesmith altered a CIA email and lied about it to others within the FBI in furtherance of a Carter Page FISA renewal. The FISA heightened duty of candor doesn’t come with heightened punishments for violating that duty.

After the latest revelations of abuse and unaccountability, perhaps it’s time for FBI Director Wray, Judge Boasberg, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to go.

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