Are spies a cyclical asset?

The number of secret search and eavesdropping orders approved by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court dropped by more than half in the last two years, according to data released Friday by government officials who attributed the drop to the pandemic keeping even spies and terrorism suspects at home.

The figures released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) show the FISA court, named after the law that created it to handle sensitive national security cases, approved 907 probable cause applications in 2019, which plummeted to 524 the following year and 430 in 2021. Those orders covered an estimated 1,059 targets in 2019 — a figure that sank down to 376 last year.

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