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GOP Rep. LaHood says FBI spied on him illegally

FBI agent. (FBI/Released)
March 10, 2023

Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) believes he has been illegally monitored by the FBI under a controversial post-9/11 intelligence program, he said recently, with the program is slated to expire this year if it is not renewed.

LaHood said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday that he believes the FBI targeted him multiple times using Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a warrantless surveillance program for which he is leading reform efforts.

A footnote in a recently-declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said an FBI intelligence analyst had made “overly broad” searches of a U.S. congressman’s data, which pulled up information gained through Section 702. LaHood said he reviewed “the classified summary of this violation, and it is my opinion that the member of Congress … is me.”

READ MORE: NSA broke its own rules to spy on Americans, new IG report finds

“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,” he said, calling the queries “careless abuse.”

Section 702 allows the government to collect the communications of foreigners outside the U.S., including their interactions with U.S. citizens, without a warrant. Enacted after the 9/11 attacks, the program is set to expire Dec. 31, setting up a fight between lawmakers who want it to be constrained or ended entirely and President Joe Biden’s administration, which wants it renewed.

In a statement, the FBI said it “cannot comment on specific queries” but said the agency has made “extensive changes over the past few years … to address 702 compliance issues,” Fox News reported.

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Those changes included “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.

Though he described the alleged queries as “careless abuse,” LaHood said “the bottom line is [Section 702] deserves to be reauthorized.”

“It’s an invaluable tool to our efforts to counter the threats of our adversaries,” he said, “but the FISA working group must and will pursue reforms through this reauthorization process.”