(PatriotWise.com) — The FBI has significantly improved its compliance with regulations determining when and if the agency can intercept communications. Data from a recent audit shows that 18% of FBI interceptions were unjustified before changes were enacted. That has now dropped to 4%.
The recent study relates to surveillance and interception carried out under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows agents to target people on US soil, as well as Section 702 intercepts that involve foreign surveillance. Section 702 is due to expire at the end of 2023 and the FBI is now attempting to persuade Congress to enact new powers after its expiration. The federal agency is expected to use the compliance data to demonstrate that it can be trusted to stay within the rules and respect civil liberties.
The changes to the relevant regulations were made during the Trump administration. According to the New York Times, an Inspector General investigation in 2019 discovered a “staggeringly dysfunctional and error-ridden process” in how the FBI obtained court orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The Trump administration then instituted changes, including establishing the office that carried out the recent audit.
The auditors have made several recommendations to FBI Director Christopher Wray. These include requiring all FBI agents to keep a contemporary record of searches under Section 702 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The agent must explain why they are carrying out the surveillance operation and demonstrate that the action is in keeping with regulations.
Public trust in the FBI has fallen in recent years. According to Statista.com, 57% of Americans trusted the FBI in 2019, but this had dropped to 44% in 2021. The drop was particularly notable among Republican voters. Their trust in the federal agency fell from 46% to 26%.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have accused the FBI of political bias, particularly when the “Twitter files” exposés found the agency had paid Twitter to bury stories likely to harm the Biden Presidential campaign.
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