About a year ago, I wrote about the FBI’s use of §702 data—supposedly collected to fight terrorism—for routine law enforcement having nothing to do with terrorism. I called it another confirmation of the Iron Law of Data Collection: the idea that once data is collected it will be used for purposes other than the reason it was collected and that, finally, it will be abused.
Newly unclassified FISA Court transcripts show that the situation is much worse than we thought. So much worse that even the FISA Court is worried that things might have gone too far. You should definitely read the Circa article linked above but among other things they report that
- The FBI illegally shared §702 data with third parties not entitled to have it.
- The FBI routinely trawls through the NSA’s raw data with no concern for the legally mandated minimization procedures.
- The FBI collected privileged conversations between attorneys and their clients.
All of this despite the fact that James Comey testified before Congress that “Nobody gets to see FISA information of any kind unless they’ve had the appropriate training and have the appropriate oversight.” The FBI has consistently denied that they’re doing any of this but the FISA documents show that this is untrue.
The §702 legislation is expiring this year and for the first time there appears to be bipartisan skepticism about renewing it. Probably not enough skepticism to prevent renewal but perhaps enough to write firm restrictions on how it’s used into the law.