Washington D.C. – The FBI searched the communications of Americans gathered by the National Security Agency for information on ‘racially motivated violent extremists’ without a warrant, ignoring previous warnings it was breaking the law. In a newly declassified report, the FBI accessed a massive amount of electronic communications harvested by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The report shows that the FBI has continued to perform warrantless searches through the NSA’s most sensitive databases for routine criminal investigations, despite being told by a federal judge in 2018 and 2019 that such a use was an unconstitutional breach of privacy.
The NSA monitors vast troves of global communications, including text messages, phone calls, emails and messages on encrypted apps, but is constrained by US law on how it uses the information against US citizens.
The FBI focused many of its warrantless searches on suspected ‘far-right’ domestic terrorists, The Daily Beast reported.
It’s unclear from the heavily-redacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court report whether the FBI uncovered any criminal extremist behavior or made any arrests resulting from the searches.
A senior FBI official told DailyMail.com the FBI had taken ‘numerous steps’ to comply with the FISA court guidance over the past 18 months. The official wouldn’t answer other questions on specifics and referred questions to the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
In 2019, a federal court ruled the US government can collect information about its citizens without obtaining a warrant if the information is gathered inadvertently while legally carrying out surveillance of non-nationals abroad, such as what the NSA does routinely.
In October 2019, the agency was found to have performed tens of thousands of illegal searches on Americans.
In the newly released FISA report, which was dated November 2020, a judge says the FBI’s Fourth Amendment violations were still ‘apparently widespread’.