DOJ Inspector General Has No Answer To How Many In Government Can Spy On Americans Through ‘Backdoor’ Searches

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Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz could not answer how many people in the federal government can use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on Americans through backdoor searches when Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz asked him at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

FISA Section 702 enables intelligence agencies to carry out targeted surveillance of foreigners outside the U.S., but they have improperly used it on Americans. There were 3.4 million backdoor searches in 2021, according to an Office of the Director of National Intelligence 2022 Transparency report.

There was around a 30% error rate in these queries, Horowitz said in his testimony.

“How many people can perform these backdoor queries?” Gaetz asked.

“I’m gonna defer to board members ’cause you have the review ongoing,” Horowitz responded, referring to Sharon Bradford Franklin, Chair of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. (RELATED: Biden DOJ Urges Congress To Renew Much-Maligned Surveillance Law)

“I’m afraid I don’t have those figures at my fingertips in terms of the number of people that can conduct those types of searches,” she responded.

“If I represent to you that we believe there may be north of 10,000 people in the federal government that can perform those queries, would anyone have a basis to disagree with that assessment?” Gaetz asked.

“No,” Horowitz said.

The Biden administration released a statement in support of the reauthorization of Section 702 on Feb. 28. 

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