During the Trump administration, the FBI paid an Israeli software company $5 million for a license to use Pegasus, its “zero-click” surveillance software.
Zero-click software can download data from a target’s computer or mobile device without deceiving the target into clicking.
The FBI managed the software from a New Jersey warehouse. Reports show before disclosing any of this information to the two congressional intelligence committees to which the FBI reports, the bureau conducted software experiments.
The experiments tested Pegasus by illegally and unconstitutionally spying on unwitting Americans by downloading data from their devices. No court-issued search warrant had authorized the use of Pegasus. In December 2021, after congressional investigators learned of these experiments, the Senate Intelligence Committee summoned FBI Director Christopher Wray to testify secretly about the acquisition and use of Pegasus.
He told the largely compliant senators that the FBI only purchased Pegasus to determine how criminals could utilize it. I guess Wray considers us all criminals. According to reports, in March 2022, Wray elaborated that Pegasus was used as part of routine responsibilities to evaluate existing technologies, not only from the perspective of whether they could be used legally in the future but, more importantly, what security concerns are raised by those products.
Last week, internal FBI memos and court documents told a different story, causing Democrat and Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden to question the veracity of Wray’s testimony. The FBI revealed that it had ordered its own version of Pegasus, called Phantom, which the Israelis customized for hacking American mobile devices.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution was written to protect the inherent right to privacy and to direct law enforcement to concentrate on crimes rather than surveillance. Before the government can conduct any surveillance, it must obtain a search warrant from a judge.
A search warrant can only be issued when the probable cause of a crime is presented under oath to the judge issuing the warrant. The warrant must contain a detailed description of the area to be searched and the items to be seized.
Warrants may only be issued for investigating crimes that have already been committed, not for experiments. The purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to prohibit general warrants.
As evidenced by the blatantly unconstitutional FISA court and the NSA’s secret criminal surveillance of all Americans, the amendment has failed to restrain the government. [More on that below.]
Donald Trump and those surrounding him bear the scars from that treatment.