Society

FBI Shared NSA Data On Americans With Private Parties

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The FBI reportedly shared information on Americans collected by the NSA with private contractors.

On May 11, rulings by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court were declassified by the Director of National Intelligence's office, The Week reports. The document explained why the National Security Agency had limited surveillance of emails and text messages collected from American citizens.

Upon review of the declassified material, Circa found that the FBI shared raw intelligence about Americans with unauthorized parties. Its actions reportedly violated some constitutional privacy protections.

Former FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers that the agency used sensitive espionage data gathered on Americans without a warrant only when it was "lawfully collected, carefully overseen and checked."

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The now-declassified document states otherwise, Circa notes. Nearly 10 pages of the FISA report list hundreds of violations of the FBI's privacy-protecting minimization rules. All occurred while Comey was in charge.

The FBI admitted to a FISA judge that it had illegally shared intelligence with unauthorized third parties and accessed privileged communications between attorneys and clients without the oversight the agency said was in place. The information was shared on at least two occasions for analytical purposes.

The court noted that the government acknowledged in October 2016 that it was "investigating whether there have been similar cases in which the FBI improperly afforded non-FBI personnel access to raw FISA-acquired information on FBI systems," according to The Week.

The court said that the FBI may know of more extensive violations that have not been publicly disclosed.

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“The Court is nonetheless concerned about the FBI’s apparent disregard of minimization rules and whether the FBI is engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported,” an April 2017 FISA ruling said, according to Circa.

The FBI must have a warrant to surveil an American citizen. However, Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Act allows the NSA to share certain data with the FBI that has been collected without a warrant if the communications were between Americans and foreign targets.

The FISA court found that the FBI wasn't always obtaining a warrant when required.

“We found several instances in which the FBI acquired communications on the same day that the NSA determined through analysis of intercepted communications that the person was in the United States,” the declassified report said.

According to the document, the FBI acknowledged that there had been violations, but insisted that such violations represented only a small percentage of the total counterterrorism and counterintelligence work it performs, and that almost all were a result of natural human error by agents and analysts who were under immense pressure to stop a major terrorist attack.

In a statement to Circa, the FBI said: "As indicated in its opinion, the Court determined that the past and current standard minimization procedures are consistent with the Fourth Amendment and met the statutory definition of those procedures under Section 702."

Sources: The Week, Circa / Photo credit: Andy L/Flickr

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