A newly released report from the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board suggests the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should stop using the United States’ foreign spy database for inquiries not pertaining to national security.
The recommendation comes amidst White House efforts to secure congressional renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is set to expire at year’s end. Although this surveillance legislation aids in examining potential threats such as espionage or terrorist activities, it has stirred controversy over its misuse by intelligence agencies. The FBI has faced bipartisan criticism for its inadvertent data capture of US citizens and businesses, leading to calls for stricter regulations on the bureau’s use of foreign surveillance.
In its report, the advisory board underscored the importance of Section 702 to US national security, asserting that failing to continue the program would constitute an “intelligence failure.” However, the board also highlighted the FBI’s “inappropriate use” of Section 702 information, such as excessive queries regarding specific US citizens and mass data searches associated with public protests. “Unfortunately, complacency, a lack of proper procedures, and the sheer volume of Section 702 activity led to FBI’s inappropriate use of Section 702 authorities,” the report reads.
The board proposed that the FBI should refrain from searching the database when evidence unrelated to national security is sought. The White House has yet to decide whether it will adopt this recommendation but is currently reviewing the board’s findings.
The report’s findings align closely with the White House’s stance on potential reforms under congressional consideration. The board argued against mandating FBI warrants for Section 702 data searches, deeming such a change impractical.