Fears of renewed FBI abuse of power after informant infiltrated BLM protests

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There are fears that the FBI is again abusing its powers to harass and intimidate minority groups, The Guardian reported.

The FBI’s use of an informant to infiltrate Black Lives Matter in Denver during the wave of protests over the 2020 police killing of George Floyd has prompted concern in Congress over abuse of power. 

Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon, is calling for the FBI to explain how it came to recruit a violent felon as an informant who then went on to gain prominence among Denver racial justice activists. 

Wyden sits on the Senate intelligence committee, which has oversight over federal intelligence-gathering agencies, including the FBI.

The informant is alleged to have encouraged protesters to engage in increasingly violent demonstrations while trying to entrap them in criminal misdeeds.

Wyden says that if the allegations are true, the FBI’s use of an informant to spy on first amendment-protected activity and stoke violence at peaceful protests is an outrageous abuse of law-enforcement resources and authority. 

The FBI’s infiltration of Black Lives Matter in Denver “appears to show another instance of the Trump administration trampling on the rights of Americans in order to divide our country and gain a political advantage”, Wyden said.

The FBI paid Michael Windecker $20,000 to spy on the activists, according to a new 10-episode podcast by investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson. 

Wyden also fought for public disclosure of former president Donald Trump’s deployment in 2020 of more than 750 officers to his hometown of Portland, Oregon, based on what he called “politicized and false intelligence reports”.

The news comes as a fight is brewing in Congress over the government’s ability to spy on its own citizens. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s biggest foes on Capitol Hill is no longer reformers merely interested in reining in its authority. Many lawmakers, elevated to new heights of power by the recent election, are working to dramatically curtail the methods by which the FBI investigates the crime.

New details about the FBI’s failures to comply with restrictions on the use of foreign intelligence for domestic crimes have emerged at a perilous time for the US intelligence community. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the so-called crown jewel of US intelligence, grants the government the ability to intercept the electronic communications of overseas targets who are unprotected by the Fourth Amendment.

That authority is set to expire at the end of the year. But errors in the FBI’s secondary use of the data are likely to inflame an already fierce debate over whether law enforcement agents can be trusted with such an invasive tool. 

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