The media learned that the FBI was conducting an operation on a peaceful protest in Portland – employees hacked and confiscated phones from citizens. The agency believes that their actions met all legal requirements.
As it became known from the investigation of the NY Daily, the FBI sent its Fly Team to Portland in mid-July. Their main task was to hack and gain access to phones and other devices used by protesters against police violence and racism. The journalists also got access to an e-mail in which this order was given by the former special agent George Chamberlain – he asked for help in carrying out “investigative actions”.
The publication notes that this case can be an example of the expansion of the powers of the FBI. Fly Team co-founder Raymond Holcomb told the publication that it is unclear what authority the FBI unit has to carry out hacking of phones, or whether the agents have consent. The Fly Team was formed to fight terrorism with a “different toolbox” and was intended to target terrorists, not protesters, US citizens.
Recently, members of the House of Representatives Committee on National Security have repeatedly raised the issue that federal agents have been holding seized phones for several months and are also trying to access them.
The FBI declined to comment on the details of the operation, citing the fact that such cases have “different reasons.” The agency assures that their actions in Portland met “all legal requirements” and that the staff “was not focused on peaceful protests”.