back to article FBI abused spy law but only like 280,000 times in a year

The FBI misused controversial surveillance powers more than 278,000 times between 2020 and early 2021 to conduct warrantless searches on George Floyd protesters, January 6 rioters who stormed the Capitol, and donors to a Congressional campaign, according to a newly unclassified court opinion. On Friday, the US Foreign …

  1. Steven Guenther

    How many for exPresidents

    This was used on Trump. You are not safe. Hay, how long will it be before they funnel all of that data through ChatGPT and ask about that freak you dated a while back?

    1. ChoHag Silver badge

      Re: How many for exPresidents

      Surely they have the marriage record already?

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: How many for exPresidents

      They did not do any warrantless searches of Trump. Maybe they used it on those around him, but that's not the same as using it on him. It was used on BLM protestors was he was in office, and I'm guessing you and he are totally fine with that. But you can't say "this law should only be used against people I don't like, not against anyone I like".

      The fact both sides have something to complain about means the law seems unlikely to be renewed.

      1. Steve Button Silver badge

        Re: How many for exPresidents

        I can't speak for the OP or for Trump, but personally I'm very much not ok with them doing these warrantless searches on either Trump, the BLM protesters (also rioters) or the Jan 6th rioters. Just use these powers for what they are interned for, or they should be removed.

        1. Brian 3

          Re: How many for exPresidents

          No, after repeatedly misusing the powers they should be stripped of them and serve hard time for violating civil rights wantonly.

          1. BOFH in Training

            Re: How many for exPresidents

            They can have the powers - except once a an abuse is detected, the abuser and the chain of command at least 2 levels up end up in jail. The abuser for abusing, the chain of command for improper supervision / training.

            Otherwise, you dont need those powers.

            1. rcxb Silver badge

              Re: How many for exPresidents

              once a an abuse is detected, the abuser and the chain of command at least 2 levels up end up in jail.

              This will only encourage them to design the system in such a way that it's IMPOSSIBLE to track usage, so abuse can never be detected.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                OK, but

                a stronger version of that argument is to ask why we are letting them design or run these systems in the first place. Clearly all of the oversight mechanisms have failed.

                Since the G-men at every level of every division have proven that they can't be trusted to use these tools with unfettered access, it would be better to spin up someone between them and the data the was both transparent, auditable, and accountable. Someone not part of their power structure and not beholden to them, but to the public. That agency would be in a position to monitor and sanction any agency abusing the system, and could screen information unrelated to the authorized request before passing it to law enforcement.

                Once that is spun up and working, pull back ownership of the data warehouses that hold data outside the warrant system and only provide them supervised access to that too. No more fishing expeditions, no more black datacenters.

              2. BOFH in Training

                Re: How many for exPresidents

                Until the next Snowden or leak happens.

                In which case everyone all the way up the chain of command, till the director or general or whoever goes into jail for life for conducting illegal activities and covering it up.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How many for exPresidents

          “Jan 6th rioters”

          How very generous of you.

          I think the term “domestic terrorists” is much more accurate.

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: How many for exPresidents

      All US presidents talk with people outside the USA as just international politics, and if you read the details on the surveillance regulations then you'll see that American regulations say that it's completely legal to monitor an American citizens discussions if they ever talk with foreigners.

    4. Snake Silver badge

      Re: "This was used on Trump"

      And just remember that it's your Republican congresspeople that continuously vote to extend these powers (the Democrats at least, occasionally, question the motive even if they end up rubber stamping it anyway).

  2. VoiceOfTruth

    I'm not surprised

    -> conduct warrantless searches on George Floyd protesters

    But not cops who shoot innocent people. No.

    Alas the FBI has a long history of doing things against the American people. Where is the integrity?

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Where's the integrity?

      Without accountability, there is *never* integrity. And the politicians want to play loose with the FBI's integrity when it suits their political agendas, conversely tightly when it doesn't, so don't go expecting the FBI to reflect anything but the whims of the politics from those who are supposed to be overseeing them.

      That make this OUR, the voter's, fault. As is everything to do with government, really. We point the finger of blame on everyone else except ourselves when we go to the voting booths.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I'm not surprised

      The Black Lives Matter protestors were African-American and so obviously linked to foreigners and so fair game for the FBI

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not surprised

      "... doing things against the American people. Where is the integrity?"

      That *is* the integrity: FBI is the enemy of the People. Always has been and apparently, always will be. See: Stasi, GRU.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I'm not surprised

        > FBI is the enemy of the People

        It's just a question of jurisdiction.

        The CIA's job is to overthrow democracies and stage coups in foreign countries but isn't allowed to operate inside the USA

        The FBI is the domestic equivalent

      2. DiViDeD

        Re: I'm not surprised

        See: Stasi, GRU

        Wrong analogy, I believe. The Stasi and GRU were under the control of their respective governments and took their orders from them.

        The FBI has, from inception, been a separate entity - a power group extending its own power for its own sake. It's generally not politically inclined (although for some reason it appears to attract many who are right leaning verging on fascist), since it owes fealty to no political party, only to itself.

  3. Ball boy Silver badge

    I am surprised

    I thought the usual way around the 'no snooping on your own citizens' rule was a bilateral agreement with a friendly overseas spook. The UK rules allow British intelligence to poke about in a US citizen's knicker-drawer because they're not British subjects, while the FISA act allow the Americans to go panty-sniffing in British underwear.*

    *substitute your own countries and euphemisms for 'spying' as you see fit. I'd be amazed if this kind of thing isn't pretty routine practice in any number of countries.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am surprised

      Here in North local Stasi (SUPO) has 'co-operation' with NSA where they let NSA to spy everything and then 'exchange information' with NSA.

      No spying on locals, no no. That would be illegal.

  4. SolarDesalination

    China

    Yeah guys we can't trust China it's a surveillance sta---- whuaaa?? The USA?! Well I never...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: China

      the real reason America doesn't want Chinese gear everywhere is because there are no spying backdoors for the FBI/NSA/CIA in it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: China

        There would be if they paid for them, can't expect them to do for free.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: China

        It would be funny if Cisco suddenly stopped to have admin access without password to their swiches, wouldn't it? Again and again and again.

        Or "bugs" with trivial ways to get one. Quite obviously all of these are badly disguised backdoors for three letter organizations and internally documented for that purpose.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The "backdoor" is literally a CALEA checkbox

        So, it's not really much of a secret. They have plenty of other tools as well, so not much of a motivator for their ban on their tech. Plenty of other good reasons though.

        My favorite is the firms are state linked, and the state engaged in literal genocide. So I vote with my wallet.

  5. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
    Facepalm

    FISA will be renewed as usual

    because the FBI will pressure congressmen using all the filth they found on them in that database...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: FISA will be renewed as usual

      That's the advantage a certain US president had. When you post all the worst stuff yourself on your own Twitter feed it's difficult for them to blackmail you

  6. Johnb89

    Breakin' the law or Breaking the law

    If congress doesn't renew this law the FBI can continue doing these searches anyway.... what's the difference between breaking the law by misusing powers, and breaking the law by doing things that you aren't allowed to do?

    Does not renewing the law mean the tool gets shut down? Seems unlikely... hidden perhaps, but not shut down.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It just slinks down to the next window

      702 is just the latest, and if we are seeing a report against 702 in the daylight, it's already open for business. Both FISA and the Patriot Act powers were designed to be abused, and when the hounds are baying at the door for whatever the worst program, they shuffle across the hall and just change a program nobody in the public has ever heard of.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the new version of DDR, where modern version of Stasi knows *everything* about you. Similarities to China are very noticeable, only major distinction being all-american hypocrisy slapped on top.

    Anyone who doesn't understand that, is just naive.

    FBI doesn't give a f***k what they are allowed to do, literally no-one is watching them. They can always ask from NSA or DHS, too. Two other spying organisations without monitors.

    All three are walking fast the path leading to SS, Nazi-Germany "police" doing whatever they wanted. Or CIA, which already does that. Some might say that Police too .... and they'd be right.

  8. objbuilder

    This is well known for over a decade but seemingly Americans don't actually care. The two senators who are passionate about this and attempting reform are routinely ignored. Specifically Ron Wyden, D-OR and Rand Paul, R-KY. Please support them even if you disagree with their other policies if you care about this and want actual change.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not supporting Rand or Ron Paul, but in the fight

      Rand has sold out and looked the other way to many times recently to trust him. He's a pathetic sell out. Thankfully we don't need to, but we do have to put up with him flapping his gums and grandstanding.

      Contribute to the primary campaigns of the adversaries of the people cheer-leading for it, or planning on voting to renew it. THAT they pay attention to.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Personal responsibility.

    Apply it to agents.

    Prosecute those who break the law.

  10. Norman123

    Everyone would, if they could, become a tyrant. Give them a hammer, everything becomes a nail.

    The rules must also carry a clause that the person advocating peering into someone's underwear should be held responsible for damages if done without a valid reason.

  11. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Move along citizen

    There’s nothing to see here.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Article title correction !!!

    "FBI abused spy law but only like 280,000 times in a year"

    should be

    "FBI ignored spy law but only like 280,000 times in a year"

    Hundreds of thousands points to the law is not really being looked at to 'abuse' it !!!

    :)

  13. dadbot5000

    Disband the FBI.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like