Rep. LaHood Says He Was Congressman Unlawfully Queried by FBI Under Section 702

March 9, 2023

At a House Intelligence Committee hearing today, Rep. Darin LaHood said the FBI unlawfully searched for information about him in databases of information collected under FISA Section 702. Rep. LaHood—who is leading a working group on the reauthorization of Section 702—emphasized that this “egregious” violation “not only degrades the trust in FISA but is viewed as a threat to the separation of powers.” This querying was initially revealed in a government audit, along with a host of other FBI violations, including other queries relating to a local political party and a tip based on racial profiling. Section 702, which is due to expire at the end of 2023, authorizes the government to target foreigners for surveillance and acquire their internet communications with the compelled cooperation of U.S. service providers.

For years, EPIC has advocated for a ban on warrantless backdoor searches, arguing that the FBI’s query and use Section 702 data in routine criminal investigations entirely unrelated to national security without a warrant—or even an individualized court order—raises Fourth Amendment concerns. Most recently, EPIC urged the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to recommend prohibiting warrantless backdoor searches and has joined a coalition of civil liberties groups proposing broader reform to Section 702. EPIC is also committed to increasing transparency around the FBI’s Section 702 activities. In EPIC v. NSD, EPIC obtained a report containing important information about the FBI’s use of Section 702 authority.

EPIC recently published several posts—including one on backdoor searches—as part of a new blog series focused on explaining Section 702 and the need to reform it.

Jeramie Scott, EPIC Senior Counsel & Director of the Project on Surveillance Oversight, released the following statement regarding the FBI’s abuses of Section 702:

“Rep. LaHood’s statement today that he was the subject of unlawful FBI querying under Section 702 is an alarming revelation and further confirmation that the FBI’s backdoor searches are ripe for abuse. Today’s revelation needs to be a wakeup call for Congress to end these warrantless backdoor searches and implement comprehensive reform to rein in the surveillance state and protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.”

Support Our Work

EPIC's work is funded by the support of individuals like you, who allow us to continue to protect privacy, open government, and democratic values in the information age.