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National Intelligence Report Shows FBI Warrantlessly Searched Americans’ Data Millions Of Times Last Year

Tech Dirt: “Eight years ago, prompted by the Snowden revelations (and Senator Ron Wyden’s persistent questions), then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper finally provided the public with some insight into the FBI’s warrantless searches of Americans’ data collected (supposedly inadvertently) by the NSA. The report delivered to Sen. Wyden was surprisingly redaction-free. But that didn’t mean it was filled with specifics. Clapper’s report was vague. And it was vague because the FBI deliberately made sure no one could say for sure how many warrantless searches of US persons’ data it performed.

The FBI does not track how many queries it conducts using U.S. person identifiers.

But if DNI Clapper (and the FBI) had to guess, it would be a lot.

Moreover, because the FBI stores Section 702 collection in the same database as its “traditional” FISA collection, a query of “traditional” FISA collection will also query Section 702 collection. In addition, the FBI routinely conducts queries across its databases in an effort to locate relevant information that is already in its possession when it opens new national security investigations and assessments. Therefore, the FBI believes the number of queries is substantial.

The FBI is finally tallying the number of warrantless searches it performed. And it is a lot. Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Dustin Volz summarizing this section of the latest report from the ODNI.

An annual report published Friday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million searches of U.S. data that had been previously collected by the National Security Agency.Senior Biden administration officials said the actual number of searches is likely far lower, citing complexities in counting and sorting foreign data from U.S. data. It couldn’t be learned from the report how many Americans’ data was examined by the FBI under the program, though officials said it was also almost certainly a much smaller number.

The report [PDF] offers a couple of explanations of the year-to-year increase in searches (jumping from 1.3 million in 2020 to 3.4 million in 2021). According to the FBI, some of these warrantless searches of Americans’ data was done to protect the same Americans being searched.”

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