The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) performed around 3.4 million warrantless searches of American data between December 2020 and November 2021, a new report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed on Thursday.
According to the Statistical Transparency Report Regarding National Security Authorities Calendar Year 2021, the “estimated number of U.S. Person queries…for foreign intelligence information and/or evidence of a crime” is “fewer than 3,394,053.”
The private information obtained included names, telephone numbers, email addresses and social security numbers related to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and American companies. Searches may also produce metadata and communications content.
The report asserted that the FBI is operating legally when conducting searches of information previously collected by the National Security Agency (NSA).
“FBI is authorized to conduct queries that are both reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information and, as discussed in greater depth in the following subsection, queries that are reasonably likely to return evidence of a crime,” the report stated.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a senior FBI official admitted to journalists on Friday that 3.4 million “is certainly a large number.”
“I am not going to pretend that it isn’t,” the official added.
The report noted that the number of searches does not correspond with the number of Americans who may have had their private information inspected.
Two senior U.S. officials also said that over half of the searches – totaling nearly two million – were linked to investigations into Russian hackers, who were allegedly attempting to break into U.S. critical infrastructure.
The FBI’s queries also included efforts to protect potential victims of the alleged national-security threat, the officials added.
Last year, the FBI came under fire after a whistleblower from President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that the agency was using its counterterrorism division to apply a new “threat tag” to track parents challenging school boards over curriculum.
“We ask that your offices apply the threat tag to investigations and assessments of threats specifically directed against school board administrators, board members, teachers and staff,” an October 20 FBI email stated.
“The purpose of the threat tag is to help scope this threat on a national level and provide an opportunity for comprehensive analysis of the threat picture for effective engagement with law enforcement partners at all levels,” the email added.
Around the same time, Biden’s FBI executed an early-morning raid on the home of journalist James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, a publication known for hidden-camera sting operations and whistleblower-based reports.
The raid was in response to an investigation into the alleged theft of a diary belonging to Biden’s daughter Ashley, and raised concerns about the Biden administration adhering to the constitutional right to a free press.