Lawmaker Says FBI Searched Him in Surveillance Data

'We clearly have work to do' on the way the agency collects communications, Wray says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 9, 2023 4:50 PM CST
Lawmaker Says FBI Searched Him in Surveillance Data
Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., speaks during the House Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on worldwide threats at the Capitol on Thursday. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., is left.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A Republican lawmaker on Thursday accused the FBI of wrongly searching for his name in foreign surveillance data, underscoring the challenges ahead for US officials trying to persuade Congress to renew their authorities to collect huge swaths of communications. Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood did not say why the FBI may have searched his name in information collected under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as Section 702, and a spokesman for the lawmaker did not respond to a request for clarification, the AP reports.

At a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, LaHood pressed FBI Director Chris Wray to acknowledge that his agency and others had at times violated the rules on the use of data collected through electronic snooping. "We clearly have work to do, and we're eager to do it with this committee, to show that we can be worthy stewards of these important authorities," Wray said. In a statement, the FBI said that though it could not comment on specific queries, it has made "extensive changes over the past few years" to address compliance issues.

The White House and intelligence officials are pressing Congress to renew Section 702, which expires at year's end. They face sharp criticism both from Republicans who accuse the FBI of having abused surveillance powers against allies of former President Donald Trump and Democrats who say there are insufficient protections of civil liberties. Section 702 allows the US to collect foreign communications without a warrant and query the data for a variety of goals, including countering China and stopping terrorism and cyberattacks.

The intelligence agencies end up incidentally collecting large amounts of emails and communications from US citizens. They can access citizens' data under strict rules for law enforcement and intelligence purposes, but the agencies have acknowledged violating those rules in some circumstances. A key Democrat this week called on the Biden administration to make a stronger case for the law. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told intelligence officials Wednesday that he and his colleagues are "going to push you to declassify more information so that we can again convince the American public."

(Read more government surveillance stories.)

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