by James Holbrooks, Underground Reporter:
On Wednesday, a bill that would’ve broadly expanded the FBI’s ability to capture an individual’s internet records — by bypassing the need for a warrant altogether — was narrowly defeated.
Falling just two votes short of the 60 required for it to advance, the bill — sponsored by Senator John McCain and attached to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Act of 2016 — sought to allow the federal government to use “national security letters” (NSLs) to track suspected terrorists’ browsing history and email metadata, among other things.
“We aren’t asking for content, we’re asking for usage,” McCain stated in defense of the failed amendment. “This is an important tool.”
But others saw the bill — civil liberty and Fourth Amendment issues aside — as completely unnecessary on its face, given that the USA Freedom Act, passed last year, already grants agencies the ability to conduct warrantless surveillance in urgent situations.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, for instance, argued Wednesday that the USA Freedom Act already “allows the FBI to demand all of these records in an emergency and then go get court approval after the fact. So unless you’re opposed to court oversight, even after the fact, there’s no need to support this amendment.”
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