Obama Seeks Expanded Internet Surveillance Authority
(The New American) -- by Michael Tennant --
Just one week after the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report castigating the Obama administration for its extension and expansion of Bush-era policies that infringe on civil liberties, the Washington Post reported on July 29 that the “administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.”
The White House wants to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to allow the FBI to issue “national security letters” (NSLs) to Internet service providers in order to obtain “the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history,” government lawyers told the Post, adding that the administration is not asking for the ability to issue NSLs to obtain the actual content of email or other Internet communication.
The administration claims it needs this authority because of an ambiguity in the statute, saying that one clause of the act requires ISPs to turn over “electronic communication transactional records” to the FBI in response to an NSL while the next clause states that the only subscriber data the FBI can obtain through an NSL are name, address, length of service, and toll billing records — not the additional transactional records the administration wants. As a result, the Justice Department, in one of its rare rulings in favor of individual privacy, said in 2008 that those four categories of subscriber data are “exhaustive.”
What are NSLs? “These missives,” explains the Post, “which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.”
Unlike regular search warrants, NSLs do not require a judge’s approval and thus have the potential to be greatly abused...MORE...LINK
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