FISC Court Rules That the FBI is Violating the Fourth Amendment

By Bill Toulas / October 12, 2019

According to a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has ruled that the FBI is violating the fourth amendment by conducting data queries on citizens. The FBI “background checks” on people have been intensifying lately, with more means and tools being deployed to help collect every type of data that can be sourced. However, it seems that this activity is starting to have a legal impact, as the highest level of the judicial system is starting to express official objections about what is going on.

According to the FISC ruling, the FBI has conducted tens of thousands of unjustified queries of Section 702 data, creating an environment of invasive searches and repeated violations. In spite of how bad this may sound, the FISC doesn't have the power to stop this practice or to impose any forms of measures or limitations. As the EFF comments, the court could have asked the FBI to issue a warrant every time they would like to access the 702 databases. This would be a logical requirement made in the context of lining up with the law and not a punishment.

Looking 702 more clearly, it is the very database that is unconstitutional in the first place. The law permits the collection of personal citizen data by the government, including communications and various records, putting everything inside a humongous database that agencies can access at any time without a warrant. No matter what adjustments may be imposed, the violating nature of 702 cannot be remediated. That is especially the case when the citizens are left in the dark as to who is accessing their information, when this happens, and in what context. This renders any form of objection or seeking a remedy for misuse practically impossible.

Where the FISC seems to be unable to break the shell of being merely an administrative overseeing entity, Congress could step in and push for legislation and changes that are in line with the constitutional protections. The FBI may be dwarfing other agencies in terms of the numbers of background check searches, but it is not alone. The NSA, CIA, and ICE are doing more or less the same thing, systematically violating the fourth amendment by arbitrarily accessing the Section 702 database. These violations are significant, and concern fundamental people’s rights, and thus can’t continue going unnoticed, unpunished, and unobstructed.

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