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Published On: Tue, Jun 7th, 2016

Obama administration supports new bill to allow FBI access to Internet browser history without warrants

The Obama administration is seeking to amend surveillance law to give the FBI authority to access a person’s Internet browser history and other electronic data without a warrant, claiming that it will only be used in terrorism and spy cases. The outrage over the Patriot Act was widespread, while this move remains out of the headlines.

FBI Director James B. Comey has characterized the legislation as a fix to “a typo” in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which he says has led some tech firms to refuse to provide data that Congress intended them to provide. Tech firms and privacy advocates say the bureau is seeking an expansion of surveillance powers that infringes on Americans’ privacy.

The FBI has issued over 300,000 such requests within the past 10 years and in most cases they were accompanied by gag orders, estimated American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani.

photo Charles Fettinger via Flickr

photo Charles Fettinger via Flickr

“That’s the perfect storm of more information gathered, less transparency and no accountability,” Guliani said.

Comey said that making this change to the law is the bureau’s top legislative priority this year.

The inability to obtain the data with an NSL “affects our work in a very, very big and practical way,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in February.

The Senate panel recently voted out an authorization bill with the NSL amendment. The Senate Judiciary Committee this week is considering a similar provision introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) as an amendment to ECPA, a law governing domestic surveillance.

Cornyn said that what he characterized as a “scrivener’s error” in the law is “needlessly hamstringing our counterintelligence and counterterrorism efforts.”

Senator Ron Wyden criticized the change as a sweeping expansion of warrantless surveillance.

“While this bill does not clearly define ‘electronic communication transaction records’, this term could easily be read to encompass records of whom individuals exchange emails with and when, as well as their login history, IP addresses, and internet browsing history,” Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who voted against the bill, told the Guardian.

Wyden’s colleague on the panel, Democrat Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, said in a Thursday statement that the measure represents “a massive expansion of government surveillance that lacks independent oversight and potentially gives the FBI access to Americans’ email and browser histories with little more than the approval of a manager in the field”.

photo/ donkeyhotey

photo/ donkeyhotey

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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