FBI reports 3.4M warrantless US data searches in 2021 News
FBI reports 3.4M warrantless US data searches in 2021

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Annual Statistical Transparency Report released Friday reported the FBI, the domestic intelligence and security service of the US, made nearly 3.4 million warrantless US data searches in 2021.

This is the ninth FBI transparency report released pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) but “goes beyond” FISA requirements. It presents statistics on “how often the government uses certain national security authorities.”

As per the Report, over 200,000 non-US persons were targeted in FBI data searches under Section 702 in 2021. Section 702 authorizes the targeting of (i) non-US persons (ii) reasonably believed to be located outside the US (iii) to acquire foreign intelligence information. To ensure that all three requirements are appropriately met for each target, Section 702 requires targeting procedures to be applied to each individual targeting decision. Bulk collection of data is not permitted.

The data search capability of the FBI means that a single query “might include hundreds or thousands of query terms.” Another key statistic in the Report was that nearly 1.9 million query terms related to potential victims, including US persons. These accounted for the vast majority of the increase in US person queries conducted by the FBI over the prior year.