GOP Rep. Darin LaHood said he believes that his name was improperly searched by the FBI, which was made public during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday featuring top intelligence officials.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) declassified a 2021 report in December in which it detailed abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). The report stated that the FBI under Section 702 of FISA inappropriately searched the data for an unnamed member of Congress and local political organizations to determine if they had ties to foreign intelligence.
During the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s hearing on worldwide threats Thursday, LaHood, R-Ill., who leads the working group on Section 702 renewal and oversight for the committee, said that he believed he was the unnamed lawmaker unlawfully queried by the FBI.
“I want to make clear the FBI’s inappropriate querying of a duly elected member of Congress is egregious and a violation not only that degrades the trust in FISA, but is viewed as a threat to the separation of powers,” LaHood said during the hearing. “I have had the opportunity to review the classified summary of this violation, and it is my opinion that the member of Congress that was wrongfully queried multiple times solely by his name was in fact me.”
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The ODNI report states that there was one instance in which the “FBI queried the names of a local political party” and another event that “an [intelligence analyst] conducted approximately [redacted] queries…using only the name of a U.S. congressman.”
The report specifically stated that the queries were “noncompliant” with the law and “overly broad.”
Section 702 of FISA authorizes the government “to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside the United States, with the compelled assistance of electronic communication service providers, to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
However, reports such as the ODNI one declassified in December, reveal that information related to American citizens is often unconstitutionally searched and used by federal intelligence agencies.
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“As Darin LaHood announced, he believes that he is the unidentified congressman that was improperly FISA-queried. In this public statement, he personifies the fears and mistrust many in America have about the FBI’s leadership. They have permitted consistent abuse of a program that was supposed to protect Americans from foreign threats,” Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
The FBI responded to LaHood’s accusation in a statement saying that the agency “cannot comment on specific queries,” but Section 702 compliance is an issue that the FBI takes seriously and has enacted “extensive changes.”
“Although we cannot comment on specific queries, the FBI has made extensive changes over the past few years – changes that post-date the period covered in the reports raised in the hearing today – to address 702 compliance issues, including standing up a whole new Office of Internal Audit currently focused on FISA compliance and instituting new policies requiring enhanced pre-approval requirements before certain ‘sensitive’ U.S. person queries can be run,” the FBI said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“For example, ‘sensitive’ queries involving elected officials now require Deputy Director approval. We look forward to sharing the impact of our reforms. The FBI takes seriously its role as stewards of our 702 authorities, which are indispensable to fulfilling our mission of protecting Americans from foreign threats from countries like China, Russia, and Iran,” the statement continued.
Last month, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding more information about the “backdoor searches” conducted by the agency that were revealed in the report.
“Over the years Section 702 has led to the abundant collection of information related to Americans and information that is not foreign intelligence. While concerning, matters are made worse by continuous reports that federal agents are querying the 702 database specifically looking for information related to Americans. These ‘backdoor searches’ are a violation of the Fourth Amendment and cannot continue,” Biggs wrote.
The worldwide threats hearing’s witnesses include: Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence; William Burns, Director of the CIA; Gen. Paul Nakasone, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service; Christopher Wray, Director of the FBI; and Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This report has been updated to clarify the nature of accusations against the FBI.
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