Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Obama administration continues morphing into a less constitutional version of the Bush administration as it seeks to make it easier for the FBI to compel Internet companies to turn over records of an individual’s activity without a court order if FBI agents deem the information is relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.
By seeking to add just four words: “electronic communication transactional records” to a list of items the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval, government lawyers say the establishment of this category of information includes 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. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication. At least for now.
Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau’s authority:
“It’ll be faster and easier to get the data and for some Internet providers, it’ll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL (national security letters.)”
Critics say the move is another example of the Obama administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security.
Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel says:
“The proposal is incredibly bold, given the amount of electronic data the government is already getting.”
Marc Zwillinger, an attorney for Internet companies, added that with the rise of social networking, the Obama administration’s move could open a significant amount of Internet activity to government surveillance without judicial authorization.