FBI Surveillance Misuse: Spying on Civilians

FBI Surveillance on Citizens
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The recent disclosure of a court opinion has brought the following points to attention. It highlights the alarming misuse of surveillance powers by the FBI. It also raises concerns about the implications of this misuse. 

The FBI along with multiple other government-run organizations, have painted red crosses on every Darknet Market, vendor, and customer in the last few years, with arrests reaching all-time highs. They’ve made their intentions clear, but how far are they willing to go?

Persistent Abuse of Section 702

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) grants these powers. Between 2020 and early 2021, the FBI conducted more than 278,000 warrantless searches. These searches targeted individuals associated with the George Floyd protests. Ones relating to the January 6 Capitol riots and a congressional campaign. 

The extent of this misuse raises serious concerns about privacy violations. It also highlights the urgent need for immediate legislative reforms. Raising questions about the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens.  

The intention behind Section 702 of FISA was to serve two purposes. To allow surveillance of foreign individuals and address criminal and terrorist activities. Yet the FBI, CIA, and NSA have abused this authority. They have conducted warrantless searches on American citizens without adequate justification. 

Despite the clear prohibition on domestic surveillance, the historical evidence demonstrates the alarming misuse of this law. Its use is to track activists, journalists, and other individuals. And this will, in turn, lead to prosecution and infringement of civil liberties. 

NSA Callbacks

The following news is reminiscent of the 2013 NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden released perhaps the most significant leak on the US government and how they were tapping in on civilian privacy.

In his leak, he specifically spoke about the attempts that the NSA made against those who have been communicating in secret via the anonymity network Tor. They made every attempt to find out information on those who wanted their information hidden. Now we’re seeing this again, except this time it’s with the FBI.

Court Opinion Reveals Widespread Violations

A recently unclassified court opinion provides a rare insight. It sheds light on the widespread abuse of Section 702 by the FBI. The court documents provide meticulous details of many violations. The FBI’s consistent failure lies in its inability to provide enough justification. They conduct warrantless searches of American citizens’ communications. 

These abuses occurred in various cases. Some examples include the George Floyd protests and the January 6 Capitol breach. Law enforcement agencies observed these abuses in two specific contexts. Law enforcement agencies observed these abuses in domestic drug and gang investigations. They were also observed in domestic terrorism probes. It is alarming to note a significant fact: over 23,000 queries on suspects of the Capitol storming were conducted. 

Urgent Need for Legislative Action

In light of these troubling revelations, privacy advocates are urging decisive congressional action. Lawmakers are also joining them in their call for prompt and resolute measures. They are calling for measures to address the rampant misuse of Section 702. The fact that the law is scheduled to end by the end of the year heightens the need for urgent and comprehensive reforms. 

According to a US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (high redacted) document released regarding Section 702, the FBI was aware of the proper procedure and ignored it knowingly.

Ron Wyden On FBI Surveilance

These abuses have been going on for years and despite recent changes in FBI practices, these systematic violations of Americans’ privacy require congressional action. If Section 702 is to be reauthorized, there must be statutory reforms to ensure that the checks and balances are in place to put an end to these abuses.”

US Senator Ron Wyden

US Senator Ron Wyden and others stress the importance of enacting statutory changes. The establishment of robust checks would put an end to abuse and safeguard privacy. These changes would ensure a comprehensive framework that addresses the issue. 

Insufficient Justifications and Overreach

The court opinion highlights specific cases. In these cases, FBI queries conducted lacked enough foreign links to justify communication searches. With campaign donors, they found eight identifiers linked to foreign influence activities. But it fell short of the required standard. 

On BLM protests, the FBI was unlikely to find foreign intelligence information. Additionally, they were also unlikely to produce evidence of a crime. These instances underscore the overreach of foreign surveillance powers. 

“Even with the long history of FBI misuse of FISA 702, these latest revelations should set off alarm bells across Congress. The systemic misuse of this warrantless surveillance tool has made FISA 702 as toxic as COINTELPRO and the FBI abuses of the Hoover years. Absent a full overhaul of Section 702 and related surveillance powers, Congress should not allow the law to be extended past this year.”

Jake Laperruque, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Security and Surveillance Project

Reforms and Policy Changes

The FBI asserts that it has taken steps to prevent further abuse of Section 702. But critics contend that these measures are insufficient. They argue that the measures fail to address the deep-rooted systemic issues. They argue that the measures protect citizens’ fundamental privacy rights. Arguing that comprehensive reforms rectify the alarming misuse of surveillance powers. 

These reforms should be of a far-reaching nature to ensure effectiveness. Enhancing query training is insufficient to address the underlying problems. Stricter requirements for searches involving elected officials and journalists do not establish checks. It falls short of addressing the issue.  

Counterterrorism And Darknet Markets

The NSA relies on FISA for its surveillance programs. Additionally, the FBI depends on this law for domestic counterterrorism efforts. Public records reveal that the FBI has relied on secret evidence obtained under FISA. Since 2007, authorities have used this evidence to prosecute 27 individuals accused of terrorism. 

This underscores the importance of FISA in the FBI’s investigations. It emphasizes the necessity of responsible and legal use of these surveillance powers. It is important to uphold national security while preserving individual rights. 

It’s also quite clear by seeing the redacted information on their document, along with other discussions among officials, that the Darknet and those who help operate them are targets. Perhaps we’ll see a heightened attack against markets in the US. After all, it’s proven to be extremely lucrative so far.


The misuse of surveillance powers by the FBI under Section 702 of FISA poses a grave threat. It threatens citizens’ privacy rights. The disclosed court opinion reveals widespread abuses and inadequate justifications for warrantless searches. Urgent legislative reforms need to gain momentum. These reforms will ensure proper oversight. They will also protect individuals’ privacy from unwarranted government intrusion.