During a congressional hearing Thursday, Rep. Matt Gaetz confronted DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz about a bombshell report from last year.
Published last May, the transparency report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that between Dec. 1st, 2020 and Nov. 30th, 2021, the FBI exploited its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) powers to search the communications records of an estimated 3.4 million Americans without a warrant.
Moreover, of the 3.4 million searches, roughly 1.9 million were related to a Russian cyberattack.
During the hearing Thursday, Gaetz asked for Horowitz’ opinion on the bombshell.
BREAKING: DOJ Inspector General ADMITS that the FBI has done 3.4 million warrantless “backdoor searches!”
Over a MILLION of which were in error. pic.twitter.com/t9VcVp4iYx
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 27, 2023
“I want to get into the 3.4 million backdoor searches that the ranking member pointed out in his opening statement. Mr. Inspector General, how should the public think about those?” the lawmaker said.
“Well, I think what we’ve seen in the various public reports, and I’m limited in what I can say about what’s public, which I think is one of the issues, by the way, that’s worth talking about, is transparency here,” Horowitz replied.
“Um, it’s obviously very concerning that there’s that volume of searches and particularly concerning the error rate that was reported on in the last two years in the public reporting,” he added.
Gaetz responded by asking him to specify the error rate.
“I believe it was around 30 percent,” the IG replied, prompting another question from the GOP lawmaker.
“I’m a lawyer, not a mathematician, but 3.4 million, about 30 percent, you’re talking about seven figures of error in terms of these searches. I’m wondering how many people can perform these backdoor queries?” Gaetz asked.
This time Horowitz passed the question on to one of his colleagues, a woman named Ms. Franklin.
“I’m afraid I don’t have those figures at my fingertips in terms of the number of people that can conduct those types of searches. But I share the concern expressed in the question that we need to have greater safeguards, and I urge Congress to incorporate a requirement for FISA court review of these kinds of searches to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights,” she said.
Her remark in turn prompted another question from Gaetz.
“There are 3.4 million backdoor searches, more than a million of them in error. If I represent to you that we believe there may be north of 10,000 people in the federal government that can perform those queries, would anyone here have a reason to disagree with that assessment?” he asked.
Horowitz immediately bellowed, “No.”
The clip then ended.
Twitter users reacted to the clip by predicting there will be no tangible consequences for the million or so errors, let alone all the backdoor searching.
Twitter users also bemoaned the way the U.S. government keeps habitually violating its own citizens’ rights.
And nothing will be done about it.
— Freedom1776a (@freedom1776a) April 27, 2023
“Error”. No, illegal, and someone should be prosecuted for it. The “premier” law enforcement in the world is anything but.
— Sue (@NoLoTeHe) April 27, 2023
How many businesses are allowed to make a million errors without consequence?
Why is the FBI being allowed to violate the Constitution?
— ❌ Shawn Dickson ⭐⭐⭐ (@tsdickson64) April 27, 2023
Our government is violating our Bill of Rights! Every one of them, all the time, like we don’t have any inalienable rights. They violate, and we have to go to then sue in court afterward, if we have the money/time/lawyer, that takes years, after the damage has been done.
— JTErickson (@JustinTErickson) April 27, 2023
During the same hearing Wednesday, Rep. Adam Biggs called for either serious reforms or the full repeal of FISA.
“I lose sleep over the 3.4 million warrantless searches of Americans’ communications using FISA Section 702. Three-point-four million warrantless searches in 2021 alone, which is nearly triple the approximately 1.3 million queries in 2020. And while reports indicate the FBI conducted fewer queries in 2022, it still made roughly 559 searches per day. That represents, in my opinion, intelligence officials breaking the rules 559 times per day,” he said.
“I lose sleep over the fact that Section 702 information acquired without a warrant can later be used by the FBI in criminal prosecutions unrelated to foreign intelligence or national security. And I lose sleep knowing that the FBI has misused privileged, warrantless spying power to conduct rogue surveillance on innocent Americans. To me, this is not a partisan issue,” he added.
I lose sleep over the 3.4 million warrantless searches of Americans’ communications through FISA’s Section 702.
The FBI is making 559 searches per day, meaning they break the rules 559 times per day.
I am calling for serious reforms or else a full repeal of FISA. pic.twitter.com/xRrkXn75Uc
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) April 27, 2023
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