Surveillance & Privacy

Unsealed Surveillance Court Document Reveals 702 Misuse

Tyler McBrien
Monday, May 22, 2023, 8:50 AM
A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion documents improper use of the FBI’s 702 database.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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On May 19, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the FBI’s surveillance authority known as Section 702, unsealed a memorandum opinion and order revealing that the FBI improperly used the 702 database 278,000 times. The FBI improperly queried crime victims, suspects in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and people arrested at protests stemming from the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, according to the unsealed document. Another case included a batch query of 19,000 donors to an unnamed—and ultimately unsuccessful—congressional candidate. 

The opinion dates back to April 2022, and senior officials from the FBI told the press on condition of anonymity that the Bureau has made significant changes since the court initially issued the memorandum. The unsealed document comes at a time of intense debate over whether Congress should reauthorize Section 702, which is set to sunset at the end of the year.

You can read the opinion here or below: 


Tyler McBrien is the managing editor of Lawfare. He previously worked as an editor with the Council on Foreign Relations and a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa, and holds an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.

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