A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed that the Obama administration had committed over 90 civil liberty violations through the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2009 to 2016. The Hill reported that the memos revealed that the government agencies improperly searched and disseminated information on American citizens without warrants.
For example, some NSA analysts had unmasked the names of American citizens within the intelligence community without the requisite redactions. Another instance revealed that an intelligence analyst ran a query on the same American citizen every workday from 2013 to 2014.
The NSA claims that these warrantless searches only accounted for a minuscule percentage of the warrantless interceptions since the passage of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was instituted in late 2008 at the twilight of the Bush administration. The Act, listed as 50 U.S. Code § 1881a, reads as follows:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon the issuance of an order in accordance with subsection (i)(3) or a determination under subsection (c)(2), the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize jointly, for a period of up to 1 year from the effective date of the authorization, the targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information
The law also expressly lists limitations of this law in section (b), saying that the law:
(1) may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States;
(2) may not intentionally target a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if the purpose of such acquisition is to target a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States;
(3) may not intentionally target a United States person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States;
(4) may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States; and
(5) shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
This is not the first time that surveillance agencies have caught fire for listening in on American citizens. Earlier this year, Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced that members of Donald Trump's campaign and subsequent transition team had been unintentionally intercepted by the Obama administration.
Once again, the intelligence community seems to have forgotten the meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The United States deserves better from those tasked with protecting freedom and liberty.