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It was secret, and now it’s public.In December, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued an 83-page ruling that said the FBI improperly snooped on nearly 16,000 Americans by searching a database of electronic communications that the government collected without a warrant.
The ruling was declassified and made public on Friday.
The court said the FBI committed “widespread violations” of privacy protections that are supposed to prevent government agents from looking through information they have no court authorization to see.
The FBI disagreed, arguing that its queries on all 16,000 people were “reasonably likely to return foreign-intelligence information or evidence of a crime.”
The court said this position was “unsupportable,” except in the cases of seven individuals.
For all the rest, the FBI had no legal authority to search through the emails or phone records or anything else that was scooped up in the warrantless surveillance programs.
The formerly secret surveillance and a now-defunct bulk data collection program were first authorized by an executive action of President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Since 2008, the warrantless wiretapping has been authorized by Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The law lets the government collect emails and phone calls of …
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