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FBI Improperly Used Foreign Spying Law On Jan. 6 Rioters, Floyd Protests

The FBI improperly searched a trove of intelligence gathered through a foreign spying law for information on people suspected of participating in the Jan 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and protests after George Floyd's death, a court opinion released Friday showed. Even with a lack of evidence, the FBI performed more than a dozen searches of raw foreign intelligence data related to people believed to be involved in the Capitol riot to hunt for foreign ties, the court said. Separately, three Jan. 6 searches were conducted that used more than 23,000 search terms to look for evidence of foreign influence in relation to an unidentified group involved in the riot. The Justice Department later determined there was insufficient factual support for the searches, reports the Wall Street Journal.

FBI analysts also searched for information related to 133 people arrested related to the protests prompted by the police killing of Floyd. It wasn’t clear whether the searches related to individuals protesting racism and police brutality or to counterprotesters. In a separate incident, the bureau ran identifying terms of 19,000 American donors to an unnamed congressional campaign through the foreign intelligence database. An official said the search involved a congressional candidate and not a current member of Congress. A later review by Justice Department lawyers concluded that only eight of the thousands of terms had a plausible connection to foreign government activity. Intelligence and surveillance activities under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are supposed to be limited to targeting foreign nationals located abroad who are believed to be agents of a foreign power or members of an international terrorist group.


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