In light of the Inspector General’s latest report, how worried should we be about the state of the FISA process?
Adam Klein is Director of the Program on Technology, Security, and Global Affairs at the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Until June 2021, he served as Chairman of the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent federal agency that oversees counterterrorism and intelligence programs.
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A set of 19 complete FISA applications offered a chance to form impressions about what these applications contain, and how the information is presented, across different FBI agents and government attorneys and over a span of five years.
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One of the most hotly debated aspects of Section 702 is the practice of querying 702-acquired data using U.S.-person identifiers—in particular, queries conducted by the FBI in non-national-security criminal investigations. Some label these “backdoor searches,” although the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has held that such queries are not searches that trigger the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
As Bobby and others have already noted, the NSA announced Friday that it is ending “about” collection under Section 702’s upstream component.
The aftermath of the 2016 election has spun off yet another divisive issue: Whether White House officials inappropriately requested the identities of Trump transition aides whose names had been “masked” in classified intelligence reports. The kerfuffle over unmasking adds even more to the already heaping plates of congressional investigators currently probing Russian “active measures” and leaks of U.S.-person information collected under FISA.