New intelligence community report reveals FBI’s warrantless searches of Americans greatly


A new intelligence community report reveals that the number of Americans improperly searched by the FBI under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) dramatically declined over the last year.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its 10th Annual Statistical Transparency Report for calendar year 2022 Friday that details the surveillance work of the intelligence community and how it ensures the protection of American civil liberties.

The report, first obtained by DailyMail.com, specifically includes information on the ‘scope’ of the government’s use of FISA and the number of unauthorized searches of Americans by the FBI, which it reveals has decreased from 3.4 million to just over 204,000 in a span of a year. That amounts to a 93.99 percent reduction.

The report comes as Congress is tasked with making reforms to FISA’s Section 702 before an end of year deadline for reauthorizing the provision. The Section 702 provision allows U.S. federal intelligence agencies to conduct targeted searches of foreigners, but sometimes Americans are improperly searched in the process. 

Last April, ODNI released data on the FBI’s Section 702 queries for the first time for the 2021 calendar year, finding that the FBI conducted 3.4 million warrantless searches of Americans.

ODNI Director Avril Haines is in charge of the release of a report detaining surveillance work by the intelligence community

ODNI Director Avril Haines is in charge of the release of a report detaining surveillance work by the intelligence community

Turner, R-Ohio, is the leader of the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the charge on FISA reforms

Turner, R-Ohio, is the leader of the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the charge on FISA reforms

The 2022 report released Friday shows a significant decline in the number of warrantless searches of Americans by the FBI under Section 702 - down to 204,090 compared to 3.4 million the prior year

The 2022 report released Friday shows a significant decline in the number of warrantless searches of Americans by the FBI under Section 702 – down to 204,090 compared to 3.4 million the prior year

The findings sparked outrage by lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum and calls to overhaul FISA. In addition, of the 3.4 million queries, about 30 percent were found to be in error. 

However, ODNI says that this year it used a ‘new methodology that more closely aligns with how other agencies count such queries.’

The agency also blamed a ‘duplicative counting method’ that landed at the massive 3.4 million figure in 2021.

The 2022 report released Friday shows a significant decline in the number of warrantless searches of Americans by the FBI under Section 702 – down to 204,090 compared to 3.4 million the prior year. 

‘This reduction occurred following a number of changes FBI made to its systems, processes, and training relating to U.S. person queries,’ ODNI explains as the reason for the significant decrease. 

The report also says that due to the formerly used duplicative counting method, the more accurate number for 2022 under the ‘de-duplicated counting method’ should actually be 110,383 unauthorized searches of Americans – and it would have been 2.9 million in 2021 (not 3.4 million).

That would amount to a 95.97 percent reduction. 

‘FBI’s de-duplicated query figures report the number of unique U.S. person query terms FBI personnel have used to query unminimized FISA Section 702-acquired information during the relevant time periods,’ states the report.

‘FBI used the following methodology to arrive at these figures, which is comparable to CIA’s and NCTC’s counting methodology, described elsewhere in this report, for queries conducted by those agencies in databases which combine contents and noncontents.’

The top Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are still pledging to reform Section 702 by the end of the year, despite the dramatic decline.

Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., commented on the report in a statement to DailyMail.com Friday.

‘While there was a sharp decline in U.S. person queries from December 2021 to November 2022, it is incumbent upon Congress, not the Executive Branch, to codify reforms to FISA Section 702.’

‘Without additional safeguards, a clean reauthorization of 702 is a non-starter.’

‘Section 702 of FISA is an irreplaceable national security tool that allows the Intelligence Community to collect information from foreign persons outside the United States,’ they continued.

‘However, we must protect the American people’s privacy and civil liberties. That is why the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence supports reforming our foreign surveillance tools and increasing transparency and accountability while maintaining the critical effectiveness of FISA Section 702.’

In March, LaHood revealed that his name was improperly searched by the FBI conducting a Section 702 query. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before Congress

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before Congress

‘I want to make clear the FBI’s inappropriate querying of a duly elected member of Congress is egregious and a violation not only that degrades the trust in FISA, but is viewed as a threat to the separation of powers,’ LaHood said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing.

‘I have had the opportunity to review the classified summary of this violation, and it is my opinion that the member of Congress that was wrongfully queried multiple times solely by his name was in fact me.’ 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan called Section 702 renewal ‘the most important thing we are going to do this Congress’ during a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday.

‘Americans are being picked up in this incidental collection. We don’t know the number, my guess is it’s pretty darn big. They won’t tell us and without probable cause that database is being searched 3.4 million times with all kinds of error rates,’ Jordan summed up.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan called Section 702 renewal 'the most important thing we are going to do this Congress'

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan called Section 702 renewal ‘the most important thing we are going to do this Congress’

‘How about we just get the FBI out of the [Section 702] business altogether?’ he urged.

Last December, ODNI declassified a 2021 report that included instances of numerous FISA abuses. 

The FBI said in a statement after the publication of the ODNI report, the agency has made ‘extensive changes’ to the query process.

‘Although we cannot comment on specific queries, the FBI has made extensive changes over the past few years – changes that post-date the period covered in the reports raised in the hearing today – to address 702 compliance issues, including standing up a whole new Office of Internal Audit currently focused on FISA compliance and instituting new policies requiring enhanced pre-approval requirements before certain ‘sensitive’ U.S. person queries can be run,’ said an FBI spokesperson at the time.

‘For example, ‘sensitive’ queries involving elected officials now require Deputy Director approval. We look forward to sharing the impact of our reforms. The FBI takes seriously its role as stewards of our 702 authorities, which are indispensable to fulfilling our mission of protecting Americans from foreign threats from countries like China, Russia, and Iran,’ the statement continued.



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